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Polio vaccination for stays in countries with polio outbreaks

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The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an increase in cases of polio (poliomyelitis) in several parts of the world, despite efforts to eradicate the disease. Polio can be eradicated with a vaccine because it is only found in humans. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommend vaccination before travelling to countries with outbreaks.


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As of May 2016, the recommendations apply to the following countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Guinea, Nigeria, Ukraine, Madagascar, Laos and Myanmar. WHO believe that the situation in these countries constitutes a risk for the international export and spread of the disease.

 

Vaccine advice with travel and longer stays in countries with polio outbreaks

WHO require countries with a high risk of export of the polio virus should offer vaccination to everyone travel from these countries. This applies to Afghanistan and Pakistan (March 2016). This comes in addition to intensification of polio vaccination to the population. When travelling to these countries, vaccination should be given within the last 12 months. 

WHO and Norwegian health authorities also recommend polio vaccination within the last 12 months for stays in Guinea, Nigeria, Ukraine, Madagascar, Laos and Myanmar, particularly with stays of more than four weeks.

The vaccination advice applies to people of all ages who have not been vaccinated during the past year. Children should also be vaccinated against polio within the last 12 months, even though the Norwegian immunisation programme considers them to be fully vaccinated. When infants are going to travel to the above countries, the public health clinic may consider earlier vaccination for those who will not have time to get two doses of polio vaccine before departure.

For countries that have had polio cases in recent years, but where there are no polio cases in the last 12 months, polio vaccine is no longer required within the last 12 months prior to travel. This applies to Somalia, Iraq, Israel, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Sudan. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health emphasises the importance of travellers to these countries being protected against polio since they are considered by WHO to be countries that are vulnerable to polio outbreaks.

About polio

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a viral disease caused by three known types of polio virus: types 1, 2 and 3. 

Over 90 % of those infected have no symptoms but excrete the virus in faeces. 9 per cent have vague, influenza-like symptoms, while less than 1 per cent develop paralysis. The paralysis can affect muscles anywhere in the body but most often in the legs or arms. If the diaphragm muscles are affected, severe breathing difficulties and even death may occur. 

The last major polio epidemic in Norway took place in the mid 1950s.