Polio: global update


Updated: September 10, 2014

Travel health notice

Poliomyelitis (polio) has been eliminated from most countries; however it continues to occur in some areas of the world. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that travellers get vaccinated against polio when going to countries where polio has not been eliminated (is endemic), countries with recently imported cases or where the virus has been detected, or countries located near those that are endemic or have cases of recent infection.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued temporary polio vaccination recommendations to prevent further spread of the virus worldwide. For additional information on what countries are affected by the temporary recommendations and how they may apply to your travel plans, please see the Travel Health Notice on the WHO Temporary Polio Vaccine Recommendations.

Polio is a contagious disease. It can be prevented by vaccination. It is spread from person to person and through contaminated food and water. Polio can attack the central nervous system and destroy the nerve cells that activate muscles, which may cause paralysis and death.

Where is polio a concern?

For a map of infected districts and a list of countries with confirmed cases of polio, please visit the website of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Recommendations

Consult a health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

  1. Make sure you are vaccinated.
    1. All travellers should keep their polio vaccination up-to-date, especially if they are going to:
      1. Countries where polio has not been eliminated.
      2. Countries with recently imported cases of polio or where the virus has been detected through environmental sampling.
      3. Countries close to those where polio is endemic, or those where recent cases have been reported.
    2. For infants and children under 18 years of age:
      1. Polio is part of the routine vaccine schedule in Canada. See provincial/territorial immunization schedules for further information.
      2. Talk to a health care provider to adjust the routine vaccine schedule if your child has not received the doses before leaving.
    3. For adults 18 years of age and older:
      1. If you have completed your primary polio vaccine series and have not received a booster dose against polio since your 18th birthday:
        • Get a  booster dose before leaving.
      2. If you have not completed your polio vaccine series:
        • Get the remaining doses before leaving.
      3. If you have not received any vaccines against polio:
        • Get fully vaccinated against polio.
  2. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  3. Consult the Travel Health Notice on the WHO Temporary Polio Vaccine Recommendations for additional information on what countries are affected by the temporary recommendations and how they may apply to your travel plans. 

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