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CDC Health Information for International Travel 2008

In the News
Update on the Global Status of Polio
This information is current as of today, January 14, 2009 at 13:56

Updated: July 18, 2008

On this Page:

Information for Travelers
Information for Health-Care Professionals

Information for Travelers

Although there is not a risk of catching polio in the United States and many other parts of the world, it is still a risk to travelers who are going to certain countries. Polio is a serious disease that can cause paralysis and death. If you are going to one of the countries listed below, CDC recommends that you make sure you are up to date on your polio vaccine. If you are not up to date you will need to get a booster shot.

Polio Boosters Are Recommended For Travelers Visiting The Following Countries:

Burkina Faso
Burma (Myanmar)
Central African Republic
Côte d’Ivoire
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Equatorial Guinea


More About Polio

Polio is a disease caused by a germ that lives in the throat and intestines. It is most often spread through contact with the stool (bowel movement) of an infected person. Polio germs can also be spread through food and water. The disease mainly affects children under 5 years old, but unvaccinated people of any age are at risk.

Advice for Travelers

If you are traveling to a country where you are at risk of getting polio, talk to your doctor to find out if you are up to date with your polio vaccination. Even if you were vaccinated as a child or have been sick with polio before, you may need a booster shot before you travel, to make sure that you are protected against all 3 types of poliovirus. If you are traveling with children, be sure that they have been vaccinated, too.

It is also important to wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand gel. Wash your hands often, but especially at these times:

Using the bathroom
Changing diapers
Coughing or Sneezing
Eating or drinking
Preparing food


To help prevent polio and other diseases, follow these tips to help make food and drink choices:

  • Eat foods that are fully cooked and served hot.
  • Eat and drink only dairy products that have been pasteurized.
  • Eat only fruits and vegetables that you can wash with safe water and peel yourself.
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water or beverages that have been bottled and sealed (water, carbonated drinks, or sports drinks). Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.

For more travel health information, see the Destinations section and search for the country you are planning to visit.


Information for Health-Care Professionals

Polio vaccination is recommended for all travelers to polio-endemic areas, to countries with recent imported cases, or to countries at risk because of proximity to endemic or recently infected countries.

According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI),* only 4 countries (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan) remain polio-endemic, an all-time low.

The following countries, however, have had imported polio cases or cases related to an imported case in the past 24 months: Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burma (Myanmar), Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Niger, Somalia, and Sudan. Of these countries, Bangladesh, Benin, Burma (Myanmar), and DRC had previously been polio-free for over 4 years, and Kenya had been polio-free for over 10 years. The following countries are at risk for poliovirus importation because they are located near endemic or recently infected countries: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Rwanda, Togo, and Uganda.

Outbreaks continue to be a risk and susceptible people are still at risk for infection until poliovirus transmission is eliminated worldwide. Therefore, adults and children traveling to these areas should be fully vaccinated against polio according to the recommendations below.

Vaccine Recommendations: Infants and Children

  • The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all infants and children in the United States should receive 4 doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6–18 months, and 4–6 years of age.
  • If accelerated protection is needed, the minimum interval between doses is 4 weeks, although the preferred interval between the second and third doses is 2 months.

Vaccine Recommendations: Adults

  • Travelers who have received a primary series with either IPV or oral polio vaccine (OPV) without an adult booster dose (either OPV or IPV) should receive another dose of IPV before departure.
  • Available data do not indicate the need for more than one lifetime IPV booster dose.
  • Travelers who are unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or whose vaccination status is unknown should receive 3 doses of IPV. (See Chapter 4, Poliomyelitis, CDC Health Information for International Travel 2008, for details.)

More Information

Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus and spread from person to person. The disease mainly affects children under 5 years of age. Polio may be spread when the virus enters the mouth of a person who has come in contact with the stool of an infected person (for example, by changing diapers and not washing hands before touching the mouth) or from fecal contamination of food or drinking water. Most people infected with the poliovirus have no symptoms, but in some people the infection causes paralysis and even death.  Until the 1950s, polio crippled thousands of children in industrialized countries. Soon after the introduction of effective vaccines in the late 1950s (IPV) and early 1960s (OPV), polio was brought under control and practically eliminated as a public health problem in industrialized countries.

OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000; however, it is used in many other countries and has played a major role in eliminating polio from large parts of the world. IPV, which is given by intramuscular injection, is now used in the United States and a number of other developed countries.
For more information, see:

See the Global Polio Eradication Initiative website for more information. For additional information about these outbreaks, see the Monthly Situation Reports.

* The Global Polio Eradication Initiative comprises the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), national ministries of health, and other partners.

  • Page last updated: July 18, 2008
  • Content source:
    Division of Global Migration and Quarantine
    National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases
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