Child from Raqqa among 15 new Syria polio cases

Child from Raqqa among 15 new Syria polio cases
Fears mount over possible outbreak of polio in Islamic State group-held city of Raqqa, where aid workers administering vaccines are unable to gain access.
2 min read
21 June, 2017
The last outbreak of polio in Syria was in 2014 [AFP]

Seventeen new cases of polio have been confirmed in war torn Syria, including of a child who is believed to have contracted the disease in Islamic State group-held Raqqa, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

Raqqa, which is currently the target of US-led airstrikes, is currently off bounds for aid workers who are administering vaccines.

The debilitating disease made its re-emergence in Syria in IS-held territory earlier this month, when two cases were reported. Polio was last reported in Syria in 2014.

A UN briefing meeting on Tuesday was told by WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic that 14 more cases had been found in the Mayadin district of Deir el-Zor province. The area is currently the scene of fighting between IS and US-backed rebels.

"We are very worried, because obviously if there is already one case of polio of a kid that is paralyzed it’s already an outbreak. We know for example that for one kid that is paralyzed there are almost 200 asymptomatic so it means that virus circulating, so it is very serious," Jasarevic said.

He added that WHO health assessments were taking place to ascertain whether polio was circulating in Raqqa.

Confirming the presence of  the virus takes 6-8 weeks, giving the possibility for an outbreak to increase in severity before action is taken.

Jasarevic said the WHO hopes to vaccinate 320,000 children under the age of five in Deir el-Zor and 90,000 in Mayadin.