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Polio warning for Europe

Friday November 8th, 2013

European countries could be under threat from an outbreak of polio in war-torn Syria, experts warned today.

Writing in The Lancet, they say large numbers of Syrian refugees flooding into Europe could bring the virus with them.

And they warn that some countries, including Austria and the Ukraine, have low levels of vaccination - placing them at risk of the virus spreading.

The researchers say the vaccine that most countries use, the inactivated polio vaccine, prevents disease but may not always stop people being infected with the virus and passing it on to others.

Professor Martin Eichner, of the University of Tübingen, and Stefan Brockmann, of Reutlingen Regional Public Health Office, Germany, say that programmes aimed at vaccinating refugees would not be adequate.

They say: "Oral polio vaccination provides high protection against acquisition and spreading of the infection, but this vaccine was discontinued in Europe because of rare cases of vaccination-related acute flaccid paralysis. Only some of the European Union member states still allow its use and none has a stockpile of oral polio vaccines.

"Routine screening of sewage for poliovirus has not been done in most European countries, but this intensified surveillance measure should be considered for settlements with large numbers of Syrian refugees."

The Lancet 8 November 2013 [abstract]

Tags: Asia | Europe | Flu & Viruses

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