Foaming at the mouth and struggling to breathe, their eyes burning, the patients overwhelmed medics in the Syrian town of Douma in the hours after 7:30pm last Saturday. By the following day, an estimated 500 people had gone to Syrian health facilities with “signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”, according to reports passed to the World Health Organisation from its partners in the country.
Even in an area numbed by months of relentless attacks, this was an unusual event. Doctors were soon treating symptoms they had not seen before. Some patients were convulsing, several had pinpoint pupils, and others had slow heartbeats that were barely keeping them alive.
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