Syria's New Woes: Polio, Flesh-Eating Parasites

Vaccination program breaks down

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 21, 2013 7:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – Syria's clerics last week gave the starving people of Damascus the OK to eat dog, and the bad news has not ended there. The World Health Organization now suspects polio has returned to the country. If verified, these would be the first recorded cases there since 1999. And it's just one on a list of what the Telegraph calls health "flare-ups": measles, typhoid, hepatitis, and tens of thousands of cases of the flesh-eating parasite leishmaniasis have also surfaced.

As for the potential polio cases, the WHO is still waiting for a lab to confirm the results, but 22 people in the northeastern province of Deir Ezzor have symptoms of what is "very likely" polio. The WHO places much of the blame on the breakdown of the country's immunization program; the BBC notes vaccination rates sank from 95% to 45% between 2010 and 2013. Worse still, Syria's porous borders could endanger other countries. The Telegraph notes that cases of both leishmaniasis and measles have been recorded among refugees in Lebanon.

A child is administered a polio vaccine.   (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
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