Syria's Polio Threatens Europe, Warn Doctors
Refugees could inadvertently spread the disease
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2013 10:09 AM CST
Syrian children line up to receive vaccination against polio at one of the Syrian refugee camps in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Nov. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
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(Newser) – Polio might just be looking at a comeback tour, thanks to the Syrian civil war. There's a significant risk that the now-rare disease could spread from Syria to Europe, as refugees seek asylum there, a group of German scientists warned in The Lancet today. The danger is that many people may not know they're carrying the disease; only about 1 in 200 people infected develop symptoms. The vaccine commonly known in Europe exacerbates this, because it's good at preventing symptoms but only partially effective at preventing infection.

It could take almost a year of "silent transmission" before the outbreak is detected, "although hundreds of individuals would carry the infection," they warn. Simply vaccinating Syrian refugees is "insufficient," they argue, pressing for a broader approach that might include testing sewage near Syrian refugee settlements, Reuters reports. But the news isn't all disease and death in Syria; inspectors yesterday reported that they have thus far destroyed all but one of the 23 chemical weapons sites the Assad regime pointed them toward, the New York Times reports.