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World Polio Day, 24th October 2020

19 Oct 2020

Poliomyelitis is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease.

  • Polio virus spreads rapidly amongst unimmunised populations and affects mostly children under the age of 5.
  • As long as a single child remains infected, there is the potential for spread to all other countries.
  • There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines.
  • The strategy to eradicate polio is based on preventing infection by immunising every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.

Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988, the incidence of polio has fallen by more than 99.9%, an estimated 16 million people today are walking who would otherwise have been paralysed by the disease, and more than 1.5 million people are alive, whose lives would otherwise have been lost.

World Polio day aims to celebrate this achievement and focus on the aim to eradicate polio.

Challenges

Poliomyelitis remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is proving difficult to eradicate poliovirus in these remaining endemic countries due to factors such as geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict and cultural barriers. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused severe disruption to polio immunisation campaigns meaning there is a lot of work to be done to catch up now that campaigns have resumed.

All other countries remain at risk of importation of polio from endemic countries; particularly those with travel or trade links, and vulnerable countries with unestablished public health systems or immunisation programmes.

Advice to Travellers

Poliovirus still persists in some regions of the world.  You are susceptible to this severe infection if you have not been adequately vaccinated against poliomyelitis. You should practice safe food and water precautions whilst travelling.

You may require a vaccination against poliomyelitis if you 

  • are not up to date with your routine childhood vaccinations, irrespective of which region you are travelling to.
  • are travelling to an endemic country, or a country reporting an outbreak of poliomyelitis.

Check the fitfortravel country pages for the latest advice on poliomyelitis at your destination.

Check the poliomyelitis page for further information on the disease.