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Polio Resurgence In Syria Could Reinvigorate Global Campaign Against Disease

“As of November 26, WHO has confirmed a polio outbreak with a total of 17 cases caused by wild poliovirus type one in Syria, which had been polio-free since 1999,” a Lancet Infectious Diseases editorial states. “At present, polio is endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan,” the editorial notes, adding, “Until poliovirus transmission is interrupted in these strongholds, all countries remain at risk, as shown not only by the outbreak in Syria, but also in recurrent outbreaks across sub-Saharan Africa, including an ongoing outbreak in Somalia.”

“The outbreak in Syria could have major health consequences for other countries, and the government there must assist in providing health care workers and aid organizations with access to at-risk populations,” the editorial continues. “But the outbreak also serves as a reminder that high vaccination coverage is essential in countries where the disease is not currently circulating,” The Lancet writes. “Although it seems like a major setback to eradication efforts, the polio outbreak in Syria might be used as an opportunity to reinvigorate eradication campaigns in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and surrounding countries by reminding local political, religious, and community leaders that the persistence of poliovirus transmission there has global repercussions,” the editorial concludes (January 2014).