A Syrian child gets a polio vaccination at a clinic in Damascus on November 20, 2013. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Today is Day 1,107 of the Syria conflict.
"The current polio outbreak in Syria — now with one confirmed case in Iraq — is arguably the most challenging outbreak in the history of polio eradication." That quote is from UN relief agency UNRWA, reported in The Guardian this morning.
To understand the tragedy and the horror of this outbreak, it's helpful to know the backstory: Before the outbreak was confirmed in October, Syria hadn't seen a polio case since 1999. In the original batch of cases confirmed by the UN, most of the victims were babies and toddlers. The case in Iraq that has prompted the fresh concern is that of an unvaccinated six-month-old in Baghdad. Iraq had previously been free of polio since 2000.
Polio is 100 percent preventable, with vaccination. But once it has set in, it can cause paralysis, deformity, and occasionally death.
And again, as the early cases make clear, the individuals likely to be getting the disease are disproportionately children who haven't yet been vaccinated.