Polio spreads to Damascus, Aleppo

The World Health Organization said the incurable virus has reached Syria’s Aleppo and near the capital Damascus

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More polio cases had been confirmed in two new areas of Syria, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

The infected areas are near the Syrian capital Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo, near Turkey.

“In addition to 15 polio cases in Deir al-Zor province, Syria, two additional cases have been confirmed, one each in rural Damascus and Aleppo,” the organization said on its Twitter account.

The incurable virus was confirmed this month in 13 children who became paralyzed. The WHO says polio is expected to spread after a drop in vaccination rates due to the war.

WHO spokeswoman Sona Bari said the virus had reached Aleppo, a key city where Syrian opposition fighters have been abtteling forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reported.

Polio is endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria despite a 25-year-old campaign to eradicate the disease, which can paralyze a child within hours. This is Syria’s first polio outbreak since 1999.

More than 20 million children are to be vaccinated in Syria and neighbouring countries over the next six months, United Nations agencies say.

Syria’s immunization rates have plummeted from more than 90 percent before the conflict to around 68 percent.

(With Reuters)

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