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
Syria's Polio Threatens Europe, Warn Doctors
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)

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. (More polio stories.)

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