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Polio rises from the grave

October 23rd, 2013
08:50 AM ET

By Lucky Gold, CNN

The World Health Organization is awaiting confirmation of a possible outbreak of polio in Eastern Syria.

If confirmed, they would be the country's first such cases in 14 years.

In 2010, Syria's vaccination rate was 95%, among the highest in the region. But after two-and-a-half years of war, the vaccination rate has plummeted to 45%.

And Syria isn't the only breeding ground.

In Pakistan, the Taliban has banned vaccinations and targeted health workers – in part as retaliation for the C.I.A. plot to find Osama bin Laden.

Indeed, a Pakistani doctor was convicted of treason for using another kind of vaccination as a ruse to discover bin Laden's whereabouts.

So far this year, nearly 300 cases of polio have been reported – from places that know it all too well like Afghanistan and Nigeria, to countries like Somalia and Sudan, which had been considered polio-free.

There is no cure for polio – a silent, symptomless virus.

But, like war itself, it can be prevented.

The Friends of Syria met Tuesday in London, in the hopes of jump-starting peace talks in Geneva next month.

The specter of polio's return should be a reminder of what's at stake.


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