Several reports were received from District Level Officers (DLOs) of the ACU-run Early Warning and Response Network EWARN, which covers the Syrian opposition-controlled areas, identifying several of cases of suspected Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) in the DeirEzZor governorate. AFP is a common indicator of acute polio, though it may also be associated with a number of other pathogenic agents.
Based on the field outbreak investigation mission, the ACU Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) have verified that of the 22 reported cases, all were children below 5 years of age with symptoms consistent with the standard case definition of AFP. The cases were distributed in several areas in Deir-Ez-Zor, and in the town of Sbeikhan in particular. In order to confirm the causal agent, stools specimens were collected and shipped to a WHO-compliant laboratory in Turkey, with facilitation from the Turkish government authorities. One of the specimens tested positive for the wild polio virus. The Health Department of the ACU is currently engaged in developing an urgent response plan concentrating on organizing an immediate mass vaccination campaign and other appropriate prevention and control measures, in collaboration with corresponding Turkish authorities, UN agencies, donors, and local institutions.
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus which invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours, mainly affecting children under 5 years of age. The infection transmits through contaminated stool which carries the virus. Transmission rates are significantly higher in contaminated environments, and in the absence of sufficient personal hygiene. Symptoms only appear in 1 out of 10 infected people. Initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die from the immobilization of their breathing muscles.
There is no cure for polio, but infection can be prevented. Polio vaccines, given in successive intervals, can protect an individual for life. In addition, ensuring safe drinking water, environmental hygiene and promotion of personal hygienic practices like frequent hand washing, can also limit the spread of the virus.
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