MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Syria polio outbreak reaches 13 cases among children

The current polio outbreak in Syria increased to 13 polio cases among children, which could spread to other countries in the region or to European countries, the Statens Serum Institute said on Wednesday.

The Denmark-based SSI said infection with polio virus causes polio with paralysis in approximately one out of 200 infected individuals. The institute said the discovery of 13 cases in Syria means close to 3,000 people could be infected without symptoms and therefore could excrete virus in their stools. With the influx of refugees from Syria into other countries, the disease could spread to those countries.

Both the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization assessed there is a considerable risk that polio could spread to other countries in the region. There is also a risk of infection in European countries that received Syrian refugees.

The SSI said Denmark's polio vaccination program remains effective after its initiation nearly 60 years ago, and the population's immunity is generally considered to be good. The country's polio vaccination coverage rate is approximately 90 percent. The WHO recently downgraded Denmark from being a low-risk country to being a middle-risk country with respect to the spread of polio if the virus is introduced.

As part of an extensive monitoring program in Denmark, the SSI tested 21,000 samples since 1998 with no cases of polio virus detected.