Nightly News   |  March 11, 2014

Doctors Fear Polio Has Arrived in Lebanon

Just a few miles from the Syrian border, one hospital in Lebanon has been overwhelmed by refugees from nearby camps.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as we shift our focus again overseas as we continue our special nbc news coverage of syria 's children of war. all across this network, we're trying to put faces to a crisis that this week enters now it's fourth year. the toll of the war has been staggering, a unicef report out today says at least 10,000 children have been killed in this conflict. more than five million children are in need of humanitarian assistance right now. refugees have been fleeing to neighboring countries seeking food, shelter, medical care . throughout the day, our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman has been at a hospital in lebanon, near the syrian border, where there are new fears tonight about an old disease that may be making a comeback inside syria . nancy's with us from there by satellite tonight. nancy, good evening.

>> good evening, brian . i'm in a neonatal intensive care unit where too many of syria 's most vulnerable have landed with a decimation of syria 's health care system , vaccination rates have plummeted from 99% to 54%. that has made even basic health care a casualty of war. the children here, syria 's children now face a new enemy, the threat of infectious disease , including the return of polio. most of the time you're catching the children as they cross the border?

>> yes.

>> and starting vaccinations?

>> yes.

>> the urgent effort to vaccinate goes tent to tent. children under 5, but everyone's vaccinated?

>> yes.

>> child to child. but today, new fears that the disease may have arrived here there's a suspected case of polio in the hospital. i'd like to show you what that looks like. mom's name is fatma. her husband and sons disappeared about a year ago in homs. she's been alone home with baby. this little girl about ten days ago got a sore throat, stuffed up nose and lost her appetite. and she's very floppy on the right side of her body. this kind of floppiness is compatible with polio, but no one's calling it until the tests are done. thank you, fatma. the world health organization and unicef have taken stool samples, spinal fluid , blood, urine, and they sent it all off to cairo. when those tests are back, we'll know for sure. it's been 24 hours now, and still no word on the results of her tests. the wait continues. downstairs in the emergency room , an 18-year-old arrives seven months pregnant in active labor with twins. but suddenly her painful contractions grow stronger. doctors determine there is no choice but to deliver these babies immediately. minutes later a 3 pound baby girl , she isn't breathing. and there's a complication with her twin, a sister. complications like this are no longer unusual here. they have become commonplace among syria 's refugees. brian , it's very sad news that the second twin died several hours after being born. basically from overwhelming con genital malformations. there's still a yellow sticker on this icolet. twin number one. this is the first baby who came out. the real concern is, at just three pounds, how long will she stay in this icu? and when she's discharged to a refugee camp , how desolate does her future look? her future hangs in the balance. brian ?

>> think of the suffering going on 24/7 that we haven't been able to see, those with no access to care at all. dr. nancy snyderman in the refugee camp just across the syrian border tonight. we wanted to remind you, our special coverage of this humanitarian crisis will continue tomorrow morning on "today," all the time on our website nbcnews.com and on this broadcast tomorrow evening.