Fifteen new cases of polio have been confirmed in Syria, including a child who may have caught the disease in Raqqa, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
The WHO said aid workers are unable to vaccinate the population in and around Raqqa, a city held by ISIS militants and a target of US-led airstrikes.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a UN briefing on Tuesday that 14 more cases had been found in the same area, the town of Mayadin in Deir Ezzor province, and another had come from Raqqa.
“We are very worried, because obviously if there is already one case of polio of a kid that is paralyzed it’s already an outbreak. We know for example that for one kid that is paralyzed there are almost 200 asymptomatic so it means that virus circulating, so it is very serious,” Jasarevic said.
Jasarevic said the WHO was doing a health assessment to ascertain whether the virus was circulating in Raqqa or if the polio sufferer had simply traveled there and caught the virus elsewhere.
The WHO plans to vaccinate 320,000 children under the age of five in Deir Ezzor and 90,000 in Mayadin, Jasarevic added.
The WHO reported two polio cases in an area of Syria partly held by ISIS earlier this month, the first re-emergence of the virus in Syria since 2014 and a blow to hopes of eradicating the disease globally. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)