It’s been almost two months since the Russian forces invaded Ukrainian cities. Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes to take asylum in refugee camps set up in other European cities.
Every week, millions of Ukrainians reach the medical reception centres after crossing the borders. One of the biggest challenges to these medical reception centres is controlling the spread of transmissible and other air-borne diseases.
The war has already given a boost to the number of COVID cases as the refugees are traveling to different nations. Also, there is a fear among many healthcare professionals that if the war continues and people are forced to live in clusters for days and months in refugee camps, then we might see a rise in polio cases as well.
Dr. Vijai Bhola, a physician from the US who has been volunteering at different medical reception centres, said, “if people are forced to live at refugee camps for prolonged periods, then we might see an outbreak of polio.”
Polio vaccination was already 80-85% in Ukraine and, in some areas, as low as 50%, Dr. Bhola told medtigo. So, the immunization rate is a major concern for people living in reception centres, he added.
Ukraine already had a slow polio vaccination drive before COVID. The COVID pandemic has only made the situation worse. Last year, Ukraine reported twenty cases of polio. With the war still ongoing and the lack of availability of proper healthcare services the cases are steadily increasing.
The poliovirus enters the human body through the nose and mouth. It enters the body when an infected person coughs and sneezes around a healthy person. The virus then gets transmitted to other people.
When people are running for their lives from Russian bombs and missiles and are still in a state of shock, you can’t expect them to prioritize protecting themselves from COVID or polio by wearing face masks and following appropriate pandemic-related behavior, says Dr. Bhola.
The best action that people can perform to decrease the chances of infection is regularly cleaning their hands and face and trying to maintain hygiene to the best of their ability, Dr. Bhola advises.