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No Country Is Safe from
Potential Polio Epidemic

Nov. 13, 2013 (EIRNS)—The collapse of Syria's health services resulting from the war has led to the resurgence of polio infections for the first time since 1999. In response, the World Health Organization on Nov. 8 doubled the number of people it said must be urgently vaccinated, to 20 million. An eight-month campaign will target children within Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank and Gaza. In the latter four, the virus has been discovered in sewage samples over the past year.

The dreaded disease could also spread to Europe. As the WHO pointed out, several countries in Europe have relatively poor vaccine coverage, including Austria, Ukraine, and Bosnia Herzegovina, and could be at risk of "sustained transmission" if polio is carried into the region.

There have been 10 confirmed cases of paralysis in Syria so far, but. Dr Hamad Jafari, the WHO's director of polio operations told The Independent, that it was highly likely that the number would continue to increase. As could be expected, all the cases so far have been in children under two years old, who have not been vaccinated because of the war.

Dr. Jafari said:

"This outbreak reinforces the fact that no country is safe. It is to the collective good that all countries should work to fight polio in those countries where it is endemic—Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan—because they are the sources of these outbreaks."

The WHO is working with the Syrian Health Ministry, UN agencies and NGOs including the IRC, to reach children in need of vaccination in Syria.