Public Health Agency of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Share this page

Polio: Global Update

Updated: July 10, 2014

Travel Health Notice

Poliomyelitis (polio) has been eliminated from most countries; however it continues to occur in some areas of the world. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that travellers get vaccinated against polio when going to countries where polio has not been eliminatedExternal link (is endemic), countries with recently imported cases or where the virus has been detected, or countries located near those that are endemic or have cases of recent infection.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued temporary polio vaccination recommendations to prevent further spread of the virus worldwide. For additional information on what countries are affected by the temporary recommendations and how they may apply to your travel plans, please see the Travel Health Notice on the WHO Temporary Polio Vaccine Recommendations.

PolioExternal link is a contagious disease. It can be prevented by vaccination. It is spread from person to person and through contaminated food and water. Polio can attack the central nervous system and destroy the nerve cells that activate muscles, which may cause paralysis and death.

Where is polio a concern?

  • Polio has not been eliminated (is endemic) in three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
  • Since the beginning of 2014, cases have been reported in the three endemic countries as well as in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia and Syria.
  • In 2013, cases were reported in Kenya for the first time since 2011.
  • Wild poliovirus type 1 has been detected in sewage samples:
    • in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, no cases of paralytic polio have been reported to date in these countries.
    • in the state of São Paulo, Brazil in March of this year. However, no cases of paralytic polio have been reported to date. The last case of polio in Brazil was reported in 1989. Brazil is not considered a polio-affected country although travellers are still encouraged to keep their routine immunizations up to date.
  • For travel to India
    • The Ministry of Health and Welfare, Government of IndiaExternal link has issued requirements for visitors from their own list of polio endemic countries and those with imported cases of polio, to have proof of vaccination with Oral Poliovirus Vaccine prior to entry to India, and for Indian residents to have proof of vaccination with Oral Poliovirus Vaccine prior to travelling to those same countries.
    • This requirement is not mandatory for Canadian citizens residing in polio infected countries (i.e. foreign nationals) and Canadian travellers, either for entering or exiting India or for transiting through polio infected countries.

For a map of infected districtsExternal link and a list of countries with confirmed cases of polioExternal link, please visit the website of the Global Polio Eradication InitiativeExternal link.

Recommendations

Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

  1. Make sure you are vaccinated.
    1. All travellers should keep their polio vaccination up-to-date, especially if they are going to:
      1. Countries where polio has not been eliminated.
      2. Countries with recently imported cases of polio or where the virus has been detected.
      3. Countries close to those where polio is endemic or those where recent cases have been reported.
    2. For infants and children under 18 years of age:
      1. Polio is part of the routine vaccine schedule for children in Canada. See provincial/territorial immunization schedules for further information.
      2. Talk to a health care provider to adjust the routine vaccine schedule if your child has not received the doses before leaving.
    3. For adults 18 years of age and older:
      1. If you have completed your primary polio vaccine series and have not received a booster dose against polio since your 18th birthday:
        • Get a booster dose before leaving.
      2. If you have not completed your polio vaccine series:
        • Get the remaining doses before leaving.
      3. If you have not received any vaccines against polio:
        • Get fully vaccinated against polio.
  2. Practise safe food and water precautions.External link
  3. Consult the Travel Health Notice on the WHO Temporary Polio Vaccine Recommendations for additional information on what countries are affected by the temporary recommendations and how they may apply to your travel plans.