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Polio virus spreads from Syria to Iraq

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 02 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2481
  1. Sophie Arie
  1. 1London

Iraq has reported its first case of poliomyelitis for 14 years, amid concern that the disease cannot be prevented from spreading beyond Syria and throughout the Middle East.

Laboratory testing has confirmed a case of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in a 6 month old Iraqi baby living in the outskirts of Baghdad. The disease is the same strain as that in cases reported in Syria last October in a poor and largely rebel held eastern region that shares a long border with Iraq.

“It is a huge blow, because for 14 years Iraq has been polio free,” said Syed Jaffar Hussain, head of mission for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Iraq.

So far 38 cases of polio have been confirmed inside Syria, and tests have confirmed that the virus was brought into the country from Pakistan.

A single confirmed case indicates a wider problem, because for every case of polio that leads to paralysis WHO estimates that another 199 infected children are carrying the virus and spreading it undetected. On the basis of this assumption WHO has estimated that there might …

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