MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018

Syrian refugees could spread polio to EU

An outbreak of acute flaccid paralysis from wild poliovirus in Syria could put European Union Member States at risk for contamination as refugees seek asylum, health officials warned on Thursday.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control urged EU countries to question Syrian refugees about their polio vaccination history and to administer vaccinations to anyone who isn't inoculated.

The WHO launched an investigation into an outbreak of AFP cases caused by wild poliovirus in Syria on Oct. 19. Since then, the national reference laboratory in Damascus, Syria, has concluded that the AFP cases were "likely caused by wild poliovirus."

So far, 22 children have been diagnosed. Five victims are younger than 1-year-old, 13 victims are 1 to 2 years old and 4 victims are older than 2 years old.

Meanwhile, many Syrians have fled the country due to the ongoing conflict, and more had already applied for asylum in the EU before the outbreak. Regional and international public health officials are working to provide vaccinations to Syrians and displaced refugees.

The number of children who received polio vaccinations in Syria dropped from 95 percent in 2002 to 52 percent in 2012.

The last case of wild poliovirus reported in the country before the most recent outbreak had been in 1999.