Travellers from UK who are visiting countries exporting wild polio virus will be required show proof of polio vaccination, Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) have said.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious vaccine preventable disease. It invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis in a matter of hours. It can strike at any age, but affects mainly younger children. Most people infected with the poliovirus have no signs of illness; symptomless people can spread the infection to many others before the first case of polio paralysis emerges.
Dr Dipti Patel, joint director at NaTHNaC said: “As of 23 September 2014, polio exporting countries are Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan and Syrian Arab Republic.”
Dr Richard Pebody, polio expert at PHE said: “Travellers who intend to visit polio-exporting countries for 4 weeks or more should be aware that proof of polio vaccination, given 4 weeks to 12 months before departure from the country, may be required on exit. For those without such documentation, live oral polio vaccine will likely be given at the point of departure. Live oral polio vaccine is safe for most groups, except those who have suppressed immune systems or are pregnant.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE said only a small number of UK travellers are at higher risk of exposure of poliovirus. “This includes healthcare workers who could be in close proximity to patients with polio and also UK travellers visiting affected countries for six months or more.
“PHE and NaTHNaC strongly urge travellers going to the affected countries for more than six months to visit their GP or travel clinic to ensure they have a booster dose of polio, if they had not received vaccination in the past 12 months.”
Travellers to polio exporting countries are strongly advised to refer to NaTHNaC’s polio vaccination information available HERE