Fifteen new cases of polio have been confirmed in Syria, including a child who may have caught the disease in Raqqa, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
Aid workers are unable to vaccinate the population in and around Raqqa, a city held by ISIS militants and a target of US-led airstrikes.
The WHO reported two polio cases in an area of Syria partly held by ISIS earlier this month, the first re-emergence of the virus in Syria since 2014 and a blow for hopes of eradicating the disease globally.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a UN briefing on Tuesday that 14 more cases had been found in the same area, the Mayadin district of Deir al-Zor province, and another had come from Raqqa, a city where ISIS militants are trying to resist a US-backed assault.
Tensions escalated on Sunday as the US military brought down a jet near Raqqa for bombing near US-allied forces on the ground, and Iran launched missiles at ISIS targets in eastern Syria - the first time each state has carried out such actions in the multi-sided Syrian war.
“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 said the WHO was doing a health assessment to ascertain whether the virus was circulating in Raqqa or if the polio sufferer had simply travelled there and caught the virus elsewhere.
The 17 children who have been paralyzed so far first reported symptoms between March 3 and May 23, and confirming the presence of the virus takes 6-8 weeks, meaning the outbreak could grow before its extent is known.
WHO plans to vaccinate 320,000 children under the age of five in Deir al-Zor and 90,000 in Mayadin, Jasarevic said.
Iraqi forces storm Old City of ISIS-held Mosul, US reports progressIraqi forces began storming the ISIS-held Old City of Mosul on Sunday, an assault they hope will be the last in the eight-month campaign to seize the ... Middle East
Iran fires missiles into Syria targeting ISIS in revenge for Tehran attacksIran’s Revolutionary Guard said it launched a series of missiles into Syria on Sunday in revenge for deadly attacks on its capital that were ... Middle East
Iraq warns Mosul civilians, tells ISIS ‘surrender or die’Iraqi authorities have dropped leaflets over Mosul warning civilians to stay inside and are telling jihadists to “surrender or die” after ... Middle East
Russia has no confirmation of ISIS leader Baghdadi’s deathRussia said on Tuesday it could not confirm that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed in an air strike in Syria last month, the ... Middle East