In May 2014, WHO declared spread of wild poliovirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). As part of the response, WHO requires the polio-infected countries to ensure or encourage that people leaving these countries have been vaccinated against polio in the previous 12 months.
From 1st June 2014, the Pakistan Government began to implement these recommendations and require all departing travellers who have spent more than 4 weeks in Pakistan to produce a valid vaccination certificate at the time of their departure. They are providing oral polio vaccine at various departure points, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar airports. Recipients are issued a polio certificate and then allowed to depart.
In support of the international effort, and in order to avoid the possibility of being vaccinated at the border when leaving a polio-infected country, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has made temporary vaccination recommendations for EU travellers to the ten polio infected countries:
- 3 polio-exporting countries - Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria.
- 7 polio-infected countries - Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Nigeria.
Advice for Travellers
Travellers are be encouraged to take strict precautions with food, water and personal hygiene.
In addition, in order to comply with the WHO and ECDC recommendations and also to avoid travellers being vaccinated in the polio-infected country, authorities in the UK have made temporary vaccination recommendations.
Travellers intending to visit any of the 10 polio-infected countries listed above are advised to seek further advice from their travel health provider in advance of their trip e.g. your GP or Practice Nurse. It may be that a polio booster, and documented proof that this has been given, is recommended. The healthcare professional will carry out a risk assessment that will identify your particular vaccination and travel requirements. Ideally travellers should seek advice as soon as the trip is planned or 6-8 weeks prior to travelling.
These recommendations are temporary and will be reassessed in 3 months as the situation evolves.