Polio is an acute viral illness that occurs in the gastrointestinal tract. It is spread mainly through person to person (faecal-oral route) contact in areas where sanitation and personal hygiene are poor.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are considered the countries with the highest risk of the disease. However, the disease can be spread to individuals in other countries who are not protected against the disease and outbreaks do occur.
Polio virus spreads through the bloodstream to the central nervous system. Symptoms of the disease can range from fever and meningitis to paralysis. Polio is a very serious disease, causing lifelong paralysis of those affected.
Treatment is mainly supportive in those with polio. Assisted ventilation may be required for those who suffer from paralysis of the respiratory muscles.
Recommendations for travellers
A combination vaccine called Revaxis is available to protect adults against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Children normally receive these vaccinations as part of the national schedule. Travellers should ensure that they have had a primary course of vaccine and receive a booster every 10 years if they are travelling to an area where diphtheria, tetanus or polio are considered high risk.