Polio: Advice for travellers
Updated: November 25, 2019
- Côte d'Ivoire has been added to the list of countries currently experiencing an outbreak of polio.
Original publication date: March 07, 2018
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the international spread of poliovirus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) in May 2014, and issued temporary recommendations to reduce the risk of further spread of the disease. Since then, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee meets every three months to review the situation.
On October 3, 2019, the WHO released an updated report on the international spread of poliovirus. The Committee agreed that poliovirus remains a PHEIC, and recommended the extension of the temporary recommendations for another three months.
Polio remains consistently present (endemic) in three countries:
Outbreaks of polio are also currently occurring in:
- Central African Republic
- Côte d'Ivoire
- the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Papua New Guinea
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative provides an interactive map of countries with confirmed cases of polio.
Polio (poliomyeltis) is a highly contagious disease. It can cause paralysis and death. It is spread through the feces of a person who is infected with the virus. It enters the body through your mouth, mainly from food or water that is contaminated with feces.
There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented by vaccination. Some countries may require that you show proof of polio vaccination to enter or leave their country. The International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis is the official document used to show proof of vaccination against polio. This is the only document accepted as proof of vaccination. It is currently available at Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel. Tell them where you will be travelling and for how long.
If you are travelling to a country where there is a risk of polio, get vaccinated against polio if you:
- have not received all the recommended doses of polio vaccine according to provincial/territorial vaccination schedule
- do not know your vaccination history
Infants and children under 18 years of age:
- Polio is part of the routine childhood immunization schedule for children in Canada. Also see provincial/territorial immunization information.
- Make sure your child has received all recommended doses before travelling.
Adults (18 years and older):
- Get a booster dose if you have received all the recommended doses of polio vaccine according to provincial/territorial vaccination schedule and have not received a booster dose against polio since your 18th birthday.
- Get the remaining doses before leaving if you have not completed your polio vaccine series.
- Get fully vaccinated against polio if you have not received any vaccines against polio.
Proof of vaccination
- Temporary polio vaccine recommendations have been issued by the WHO for some polio-affected countries.
- These countries may require long-term travellers (visiting longer than 4 weeks) to show proof of polio vaccination when leaving the country.
- To meet this requirement, long-term travellers to polio-affected countries should receive the polio vaccine between 4 weeks and 12 months before their date of departure from the country.
- Make sure that the polio vaccination is documented on the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. This is the only document accepted as proof of vaccination. In Canada, they are provided at Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres.
- Carry the certificate as proof of vaccination.
During your trip, eat and drink safely
Always take precautions with food and water to avoid getting sick.
- Only eat foods that are well cooked and served hot.
- Drink water that has been boiled, disinfected or is in a commercially sealed bottle.
Practise good hand hygiene
- Wash your hands frequently. Use soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds:
- before eating
- before and after handling food
- after using the bathroom
- after changing diapers
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Information for health care professionals
The Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel (CATMAT) has developed a statement on poliovirus and the international traveller in accordance with the World Health Organization's (WHO) temporary recommendations to provide guidance for health care professionals who are preparing travellers to visit areas with a risk of polio.
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