Polio has an incubation period of about 7-14 days, after which around 90% of cases show no symptoms, producing a lifelong immunity. Others, however, display a flu-like illness and then recover, while about 1 in every 1000 cases of the illness develops a paralytic illness affecting the nervous system, which sometimes leads to death.
Who is at risk of Polio?
Any individual who has not been vaccinated and is travelling or working in an area where Polio is endemic, is at risk of Polio. After an intensive worldwide vaccination programme Polio has been eradicated from most countries, including the United Kingdom. Areas in which Polio is still endemic include areas of Africa, Asia and the Netherlands.
How can I prevent Polio?
Polio vaccination is part of the national vaccine recommendations in the United Kingdom. A course of vaccine is usually started when a child is one month old, given a month apart for three doses. A booster is then given at school entry as part of the pre-school booster, and then again at leaving age around 15-19 years of age. Adults are then given a booster dose if they are travelling, every ten years. The vaccine however can remain in an individual’s stool for up to six weeks after administration and it is important in a home where immunocompromised individuals also live, that strict hygiene is adhered to, especially when handling baby nappies. Even with vaccination, travellers should be aware of good hygiene.
Note: This information is designed to complement and not replace the relationship that exists with your existing family doctor or travel health professional. Please discuss your travel health requirements with your regular family doctor or practice nurse.