I remember as a young child in grade school, swallowing the sugary oral polio vaccine. Since then, the only times I’ve thought about polio were in preparation for exams in medical school. As a doctor, I’ve never seen a case of it. Since I don’t treat kids, I’ve never prescribed the polio vaccine. It’s simply not part of my medical universe.
For many international travelers, however, polio may be in the center of their universe. Polio exists in many regions of the world. Travelers to these areas must discuss their polio vaccine history with their travel doctors before departure. Even those who were fully vaccinated as kids may need a booster injection, if they will be traveling to a high risk polio region. These adult travelers, who were vaccinated decades earlier, may not realize that they are at risk. The stakes are high. While most polio infections are mild, devastating paralysis is a rare complication.
Polio persists to this day in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Infected people in these countries have spread polio to several other countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. For a complete list of countries where polio boosters may be necessary, consult the CDC polio information page.
Polio outbreaks are still occurring. Polio vaccination and disease prevention are essential since there is no treatment for the disease!
Traveling abroad soon? Here are 3 important stops on your pre-travel itinerary.
- Write down your vaccination history.
- See a qualified and up-to-date travel doctor.
- Get the travel vaccinations and booster shots you need.