GENEVA - At least 22 people are suspected of having polio in Syria, the first outbreak of the crippling viral disease in 14 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Most of those stricken with acute flaccid paralysis, a symptom of diseases including polio, in Deir al-Zor province are children under the age of two, WHO spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer said. More than 100,000 children under the age of five are deemed at risk of polio in the eastern province.
There is no cure for the highly infectious disease, it can only be prevented through immunization, usually three doses.
"The main concern right now is to quickly launch an immunization response," Rosenbauer said. Vaccination campaigns are being planned across Syria from November but the logistics were still being discussed, he said.
The city of Deir al-Zor is partially controlled by Syrian government forces while the countryside around it is in the hands of rebels fighting to remove President Bashar al-Assad.
"Everybody is treating this as an outbreak (of polio) and is in outbreak response mode," Rosenbauer said.