Polio Vaccination Updates

June 2014

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the international spread of wild poliovirus in 2014 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Several countries have already been affected by the spread of the virus, which include: Pakistan; Nigeria; Afghanistan; Equatorial Guinea; Iraq; Cameroon; Syria; Ethiopia; Somalia; Kenya.

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system. Many infected people have no symptoms, but can still transmit the infection to others. Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Polio can only be prevented by immunization.

WHO recently updated its recommendations on polio as follows:

1. Adult travellers to polio-infected areas who have not received any polio vaccine previously should complete a primary schedule of polio vaccination before departure.

2. Adult travellers to polio-infected areas who have previously received three or more doses of OPV (oral polio vaccine) or IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) should also undergo another one-time booster dose of polio vaccine if their last dose of polio vaccine was more than 12 months ago.

For child travellers, please consult your medical provider or the UN Medical Service for further information.

In connection with this, we advise all UN staff travelling to the above countries to ensure that they are adequately vaccinated.  The vaccination is readily available at local hospitals and other medical providers. The Joint Medical Service at UNON provides the injectable polio vaccine and issues the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis.

For more information, visit the Polio Eradication website (http://www.polioeradication.org)