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World Polio Day 2023

23 Oct 2023

World Polio day is held annually on the 24 October, to highlight and support the ongoing global fight to end polio for good.

Polio, or paralytic poliomyelitis, is a highly infectious disease that affects the nervous system and in some instances can cause paralysis. It is caused by a virus and most commonly affects children under the age of 5 years who have not been vaccinated in the most effective way. There is no cure for the paralysis caused by polio, but it can be prevented with safe and effective vaccines.

Since 1988, polio cases have reduced worldwide by 99%. However, outbreaks of polio still occur in countries in which inadequate numbers of their population have received good quality vaccinations against the disease. Making sure all countries continue to have a high percentage of their people vaccinated against polio is essential if we are to stop the polio virus spreading and prevent future outbreaks.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative works to eliminate polio worldwide through making sure that as many people as possible are properly protected against the virus.

  • Because not enough people have been fully vaccinated against polio everywhere in the world, outbreaks of polio continue to happen and spread in some countries.
  • Eliminating polio will depend on vaccinators being able to get access to children living in communities that are difficult to reach, for example in remote areas or in countries affected by war and conflict.
  • Globally, 2 of the 3 types of poliovirus have already been eliminated, which shows that it is possible to achieve elimination of all types of poliovirus.

Advice to travellers

Polio is a serious infection caused by the poliovirus, a germ which only affects humans. The virus can infect the spinal cord, causing inability to move parts of the body (paralysis), and in some cases can become life threatening. The virus enters your body through the mouth and spreads through:

  • contact with the poo from an infected person
  • droplets from a cough or sneeze from an infected person (although this is less common)

Before travelling you should:

  • be fully up to date with the polio vaccines that are given as part of the UK vaccination schedule - this means you should from childhood onwards have received at least 5 doses of polio vaccine
  • consider having a booster dose of polio vaccine if it has been more than 10 years since your last booster and you are travelling to a country where polio remains a problem (information on the polio vaccination and certificate requirements can be found in the ‘Vaccinations’ and ‘Alerts’ sections of each country page)

During travel you should at all times practice safe hand hygiene and food and water precautions to reduce your risk of infection.

More information on polio can be found on the fitfortravel Poliomyelitis page.