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WHO confirms polio outbreak in Syria


A polio outbreak has been confirmed among young children in northeast Syria, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed on Tuesday, warning of a “risk of spread across the region”.


The UN’s health agency on Tuesday said it had confirmed 10 polio cases among young children in northeast Syria.

The outbreak at Deir al-Zor is the first case of the disease in Syria since 1999. 

World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer warned that the risk of the disease spreading across the region was “high”.

"Out of 22 being investigated, 10 are now confirmed to be polio type one," WHO spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer told a news briefing in Geneva.

Laboratory results were still being awaited on the remaining 12 suspected cases in Deir al-Zor.

Most victims are under two years old and are believed never to have been vaccinated against the crippling disease or to have received even a single dose of the oral vaccine instead of three which ensure protection, Rosenbauer said. 

With about 4,000 refugees fleeing Syria's civil war daily, polio immunisation campaigns are planned in neighbouring countries, where there may be gaps in coverage.

"This is a communicable disease, with population movements it can travel to other areas. So the risk is high for (its) spread across the region," Rosenbauer said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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