TODAY

TODAY   |  November 04, 2013

Polio in Syria worries World Health Organization

Polio vaccinations have declined rapidly since the start of Syria’s civil war, and an outbreak is on the rise. Now, there is concern that refugees will carry the disease to neighboring countries. NBC’s chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports from Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

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>>> a polio outbreak in syria is raising concerns that they could carey the disease to countries including lebanon . dr. nancy snyderman is there to tell us about the rapid international response to this crisis. dr. nancy, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, natalie. the real concern is because syria has been polio free since 1999 , jordan since 1992 , neighboring countries haven't seen this in over a decade so when the word of an outbreak surfaced the world health organization considered this the tip of the iceberg . almost three years into a civil war , syria 's once proud medical system is now in shambles. before the conflict began 90% of syria 's children had been immunized against polio but now it's dropped to 60% and with that, the resurgence of the disease. they're taking the threat seriously. in lebanon , every child crossing the border is immunized.

>> in two days you immunized 700 children. that's a lot in two days. but that's the rule, if you want to come to lebanon , you must get your vaccination?

>> yes.

>> reporter: in jordon, 1900 children were vaccinized in days. every child is considered vulnerable. the rapid response by bodies such as the world health organization and the united nations may well stop this from becoming an epidemic.

>> the level of proactivity, the level of focus. the scale of the campaign we have been involved in now have been so significant that i think we can be optimistic but we can never be complacent.

>> reporter: border crossing stations have turned into pop up clinics and they're immunizing against measles and rubella. anyone under 20 will get that.

>> thank you dr. nancy snyderman .