What is the current situation?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting an increase in polio disease primarily in Africa but also including countries in other continents. Travelers are currently at risk of exposure in the following countries:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Israel, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, United Kingdom, Yemen, and Zambia. 

Polio cases are increasing worldwide, be sure to protect your health with the polio vaccine before your next trip.
Source: CDC
Large gatherings and low vaccination rates can lead to polio outbreaks in some countries. A polio booster dose may be recommended before your trip.

How Can I Protect Myself Against Polio Virus?

Vaccination against polio is the single best prevention against infection if exposure occurs.  Adults 18 years and older who received their full vaccine series as a child need a single additional dose.  Vaccines we receive as children sometimes wane, in other words, wear off over time.  For this reason, another dose of the polio vaccine is recommended for travel to areas with active cases. Ideally, the booster dose is given several weeks before arrival in a country with active polio transmission.

Unvaccinated adults and Children

Unvaccinated adults will be recommended multiple doses of polio vaccine.  The number of doses will depend on planning

Ensure adolescents and children 17 years and younger are current on their routine polio vaccine series.  Typically, this is a total of 3-4 vaccinations.  Check with the child’s pediatrician office before departure. 

Who is at most risk for polio exposure?

Anyone visiting a country currently reporting polio cases should receive a polio vaccine if they are not up-to-date.  Risk increases for individuals returning to home countries and visiting friends and family and or participating in large gatherings.  Further, medical workers or refugee and humanitarian aid workers are more likely to have close contact with unvaccinated people.

Why is Polio Spreading

Increasing reports of polio cases is due to a confluence of factors including low vaccination rates and displaced populations.  War, political or civil unrest, and famine all contribute to both interrupting normal medical services such as polio vaccination campaigns in many countries.  Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted vaccination outreach efforts worldwide.  When polio disease enters a population with a low vaccination rate, outbreaks can occur.  Migration and immigration of populations with low vaccination rates to other regions or countries of the world can cause the illness to appear in countries that were once considered polio-free. 

How is the Virus Spread and What are the Symptoms?

Most often, transmission is from poor hygiene after using the bathroom.  Specifically, polio is transmitted in feces and can enter food and water easily if handwashing is not completed.  Handwashing with soap and water is not accessible to many people such as refugee settings or following natural disasters. 

Most who are infected with have no symptoms but may pass it on in stool.  Some people have mild cases with only headache and tiredness.  In severe cases, the polio virus causes damage to the nervous system resulting in paralysis.  Death can occur when the muscles that are responsible for breathing are paralyzed.  

The polio vaccine has been used for many decades to prevent disease in individuals and outbreaks in populations.  Over time, the effectiveness of the polio vaccine may wear off which is why a booster dose is recommended for some adults.

Read More About Polio Vaccine Available at Destination Health

Visit the Destination Health vaccination section to read more about the polio vaccine.  Additional vaccines may be recommended based on your travel plans and immunization history. 

Schedule an appointment online for vaccination or to consult with a travel health specialist. 


Civil unrest due to war and famine can lead to low polio vaccination rates. Humanitarian and medical workers are at higher risk for polio exposure and should ensure they have received an adult polio booster for many destinations