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World Health Organisation Statement on International Spread of Poliovirus

28 May 2014

On 5 May 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a statement concerning the international spread of poliovirus. In order to to reduce the spread of polio, WHO has made temporary recommendations to the government of several countries.

During 2014, there has been international spread of poliovirus from 3 of the 10 States currently infected: central Asia (from Pakistan to Afghanistan), the Middle East (Syrian Arab Republic to Iraq) and Central Africa (Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea).

WHO Recommendations:

The government of countries exporting poliovirus (Cameroon, Pakistan and the Syrian Arab Republic) should ensure:

  • All residents and long-term visitors receive a dose of polio vaccine between 4 weeks and 12 months prior to international travel.
  • Urgent travellers (within 4 weeks) should receive a dose of polio vaccine at least by the time of departure, unless they have been vaccinated against polio in the previous 4 weeks to 12 months.
  • Travellers receiving polio vaccine must be provided with an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis as proof of vaccination.

The Government of countries infected with poliovirus (Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Nigeria) should encourage:

  • All residents and long-term visitors to receive a dose of poilo vaccine 4 weeks to 12 months prior to international travel.
  • Urgent travellers (i.e. within 4 weeks) to receive a dose at least by the time of departure.
  • That travellers receiving vaccination have an appropriate document to record their polio vaccination.

Advice for UK Travellers

Current position on UK travellers to/from countries exporting and infected with poliovirus:

Travellers to affected countries:

There are a significant number of people who travel from the UK to these countries, in particular to Pakistan and Nigeria to visit family. It is not mandatory for UK travellers to receive polio vaccination before travel to any of the polio affected countries.

Currently it is recommend that travellers to countries where polio is reported should receive  a polio booster (or course) according to UK guidelines if not already protected, and take precautions with food, water and personal hygiene.

Please refer to fitfortravel destination pages for information on polio-affected countries.

Health Protection Scotland in discussion with Scottish Government and the Department of Health are currently considering whether or not to advise additional vaccination beyond the current recommendation to have a booster after 10 years. We are seeking clarification on the approach that will be taken on exit in Pakistan, which will come into force on June 1st, before deciding on the most appropriate vaccination approach for travellers from Scotland.

Further information will be published when it becomes available.