Polio: Advice for travellers

Level 2 - Practise enhanced health precautions (more details)

Original publication date: April 15, 2024

Updated: May 6, 2024

Current situation

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 polio-affected countries to prevent or reduce further spread of the disease. The polio PHEIC, and the temporary recommendations, are reviewed every 3 months. 

These temporary recommendations may impact your travel.

Some countries may have more than one type of circulating poliovirus. The following destinations have circulating wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) or circulating vaccine derived poliovirus (cVDPV) types 1 or 3:

  • Afghanistan
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Pakistan

Travellers who are visiting these countries for longer than 4 weeks may be required to receive a dose of polio vaccine 1 to 12 months before they leave this destination. This may be required even if you have previously received all the recommended polio vaccine doses as part of the routine vaccine schedule in Canada. 

Make sure that the polio vaccination is documented on the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis.

The following destinations have reported cVDPV type 2, with or without evidence of local transmission:

  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Egypt
  • Guinea
  • Indonesia
  • Kenya
  • Liberi
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mozambique
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Republic of Congo
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Countries with local transmission of cVDPV2 may encourage travellers visiting for longer than 4 weeks to receive a dose of polio vaccine 1 to 12 months before they leave. 

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative provides an interactive map of countries with confirmed cases of polio.

Polio Now - Interactive map

Learn more:

WHO - Statement of the Thirty-eighth Meeting of the Polio IHR Emergency Committee

About polio

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease and can spread easily from person to person through contaminated food and water. It enters the body through your mouth, mainly from food or water that is contaminated with feces.
Most people infected with the poliovirus don’t have any symptoms. Those who get symptoms may at first experience:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • aching muscles
  • stiff neck or back

Typically, symptoms last between 2 and 10 days and go away on their own.

In rare cases, poliovirus infection can damage a person’s nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. This can result in weakness or paralysis (the loss of the ability to move all or part of your body). Nerve and muscle damage caused by polio can be permanent.

Learn More:

Polio: Symptoms and treatment


Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably at least least 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Get vaccinated for polio

If you are travelling to a country where there is a risk of polio, get vaccinated if you:  

  • havent received all the recommended doses of polio vaccine according to your provincial/territorial vaccination schedule
  • don't 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. 
  • 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 haven't received a polio booster dose since your 18th birthday.
  • Get your remaining scheduled doses before leaving if you haven't completed your polio vaccine series.
  • Get fully vaccinated against polio before leaving if you haven't received any polio vaccines.

Learn more:

Recommended immunization schedules: Canadian Immunization Guide
Routine childhood immunization schedule
Provincial and Territorial Immunization Information

Proof of vaccination

  • Temporary polio vaccine recommendations have been issued by the WHO for some polio-affected countries.
    • Depending on the type of circulating poliovirus,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.

Learn more:

Statement of the Thirty-eighth Meeting of the Polio IHR Emergency Committee
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada

Eat and drink safely

  • Only eat foods that are well cooked and served hot.
  • Drink water that has been boiled, disinfected or is in a commercially sealed bottle.

Clean your hands regularly

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    •  Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with you when you travel.
    • If your hands are visibly dirty, you should wash them with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer.

Learn more:

Eat and drink safely abroad
Hand washing and staying healthy

Monitor your health

See a health care provider right away if you or your child:

  • have been in contact with someone who has polio
  • have any polio symptoms after travelling to a country where polio is still present

Learn more:

Polio: Symptoms and treatment
If you become sick or injured while travelling outside Canada or after your return

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.

CATMAT: Statement on poliovirus and the international traveller

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home. 

Registration of Canadians Abroad

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