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記事:Dan Nixon、Arnold R. Grahl



Will Syrian Polio Spread to Europe?
By Susan Scutti / November 08 2013 1:11 PM

A recent polio outbreak in Syria, coupled with reports of polio virus found in Israeli sewers, is causing anxiety in Europe. As Syrians flee the chaos of civil war and seek refuge on the continent, German scientists warn that an epidemic could occur.

Not all of Europe is at risk; a few countries have been singled out as potential polio hotbeds. According to the new report published in The Lancet, Austria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the Ukraine all have insufficient “community immunity” from polio, and should be on high alert.


The Lancet study highlights one reason polio is so dangerous. It’s an insidious disease, spreading quickly but often silently: Only one in every 200 infections shows any recognizable symptoms. In other words, hundreds of Europeans could be silent carriers of the virus. In fact, scientists say polio could be circulating in Europe for nearly a year before an outbreak is detected.

That’s troubling news for Europe, which has been officially polio-free since 2011. Compounding those worries is the fact that in February WHO reported wild poliovirus type 1 had spread to Israel. Soon after, Israeli authorities detected the virus in West Bank and Gaza Strip sewage systems. In August, Israel began a vaccination program for children under the age of 9, and no cases of paralytic polio have been reported there.


As of November 6, public health officials have reported 328 cases of polio worldwide, compared with 181 cases confirmed at this date last year. Just 25 years ago, the disease was endemic in 125 countries and nearly 350,000 people, mainly children under the age of 5, were paralyzed each year due to polio. In 1988, the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO, established the goal of eradicating polio and since then, the number of polio cases dropped more than 99 percent, while the number of endemic countries dwindled to just three--Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. When India was declared polio-free in 2012, many believed the end of polio was near. Its recent emergence in non-endemic countries suggests the hard work accomplished over a period of decades is in jeopardy, but not everyone is ringing alarm bells. “The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has dealt with countless outbreaks since [its] launching in 1988,” Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center, Emory University, said in a letter to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “As a result, the program is wiser and better equipped than ever to handle them, even under complicated and dangerous circumstances like those in Syria. Strategies…are already being implemented in Syria and will be aggressively pursued until the outbreak is stopped.”