There’s a New Guideline for Helping Chemical-Weapons Victims in Syria–and It’s Brutal

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A Syrian man mourns victims of an alleged poison-gas attack by regime forces in Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Media Office Of Douma City)

The World Health Organization released new interim guidance Tuesday for the treatment of victims of chemical weapons. The document, which is available in both English and Arabic, is based on field training that’s been carried out since last year.

In light of what’s happened in Syria in the past week, the document is predictably gut-wrenching. Glenn Thomas, a spokesman for the WHO in Genevasaid that the release of the document this week isn’t just some coincidence—it was rushed out to support United Nations and WHO staff in Syria.

The organization’s flowchart on identifying the class of chemical exposure gives you enough of a sense of how dire the situation must be for medical responders in Syria:

It’s not totally clear yet what type of chemical weapons have been used in Syria. But according to experts, the most likely culprit in last week’s attack is some sort of nerve agent. According to the new WHO report, here are the signs and symptoms of these weapons:

It may not be long before the U.S. steps in. Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that there is “no doubt” that the Assad regime in Syria has used chemical weapons, and that “no one doubts that innocent men, women, and children have been the victims.” NBC reports that U.S. strikes on Syria intending to send a message could come as soon as Thursday, and last for three days.


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