Poliomyelitis (or polio) is a contagious infectious disease caused by the polio virus and affecting the nervous system. It is usually transmitted from person to person, but it can also be spread through the consumption of water and raw or under cooked food that have been contaminated with the feces of infected people. 

Polio can be hard to detect as, most of the time, the persons affected by the disease don’t show any particular sign. In some cases, mild symptoms like a fever, fatigue, headaches, throat soreness, nausea, nasal congestion and cough appear. Stiffness in the neck and in the back or pain in the arms and in the legs can also occur. The victims of polio usually rapidly fully recover. But in rare cases, the infection can result in the permanent paralysis of the arms and the legs, or in a fatal brain infection. 


Large scale outbreaks of polio used to occur in developed countries, notably in the United States. But the number of cases of polio has significantly decreased in the world in the past decades, since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, aiming at controlling and eradicating the disease, has been launched. Nowadays, polio remains endemic in three countries : Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Several other nations of Africa and Asia are also affected by the disease, but at a more medium scale. The travelers going to these countries are potentially at risk for polio.



The only effective protection against polio is the vaccination. If you intend to travel to a country at risk, consult a doctor before your departure and make sure that your vaccination against polio is up to date. Even if you have already been vaccinated, you may need a booster dose of polio vaccine. It is especially important that the children traveling with you are correctly vaccinated.


In addition to the vaccination, you must have good hygiene practices while traveling. Frequently wash your hands with clean water and soap, or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before preparing food, eating or feeding children and after going to the bathroom. Avoid touching your eyes, your mouth and your nose without cleaning your hands first. When sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue. Throw the tissue in a bin right after use. Avoid close contact with other people, especially with persons who are looking sick, and never share eating utensils or cups.


You should also follow basic food safety rules. Be always sure that the water and the food you consume are safe. Never eat raw, under cooked or suspicious food and always eat food while still hot. Preferably drink sealed bottled water.


If you feel sick after traveling in a country at risk and you think that you may be infected with polio, you must see a doctor as soon as possible. Inform him/her of the places you have visited and of your activities there. Remain isolated until complete recovery, to avoid the spread of the disease.



We make every effort to ensure that the information posted on our website is up to date and accurate according to the latest public health recommendations; however, it is impossible for us to make changes on a daily basis.

For the most current travel health recommendations, please call our clinic as make an appointment with one of our travel health professionals.