ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Poliomyelitis is an acute illness that follows gastrointestinal infection by one of the three types of poliovirus. Often infection occurs with no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue and stiffness of the neck and back. The illness can progress to cause paralysis, which can lead to permanent crippling or, if the swallowing and breathing muscles are impacted, death.7,38,39

Transmission is from person-to-person by the faecal–oral route or by close contact. Rarely, outbreaks are caused by contaminated food or water.

Geographical distribution7,38,39
The introduction of polio vaccines in the 1950s and 1960s has dramatically reduced the worldwide incidence of polio . Wild poliovirus transmission has ceased in almost all developed countries, but cases still occur in developing countries, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and Africa.

See polio distribution map

Risk for travellers7,38
Until the disease has been certified as eradicated, the risk of acquiring poliomyelitis remains, and travellers to endemic countries should be fully protected by vaccination. A single booster done through adult life in persons who have received primary vaccination as children is considered to be protective.

Precautions and prevention7,38

  • Vaccination. All travellers should be up-to-date with vaccination against poliomyelitis which is recommended routinely in Australia . Both an inactivated injectable vaccine and live oral vaccine are available. (see your doctor).

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