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Africa's Polio Outbreaks Increasingly Concern the U.S. CDC

July 30, 2022 • 1:46 pm CDT
(Vax Before Travel)

To notify international travelers of their potential poliovirus risks when visiting Africa, the U.S. CDC recently reissued its Aler, Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions on July 27, 2022.

The CDC stated, 'Some international destinations in Africa are considered high-risk for polio.'

Before traveling to these destinations, the CDC recommends that adults who previously completed the entire routine polio vaccine series receive a single, lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine.

Furthermore, anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series before traveling abroad.

While polio has been eradicated in the USA for decades, a few polio cases have been confirmed in people who traveled to certain countries. The CDC has identified countries throughout Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe during 2022.

For example, an unvaccinated man returned to Rockland County, NY, infected with polio in July 2022.

The NY state patient reportedly contracted a form of polio that can be traced back to the live, but weakened, poliovirus used in the oral polio vaccine (OPV).

Following the detection, the Global Polio Laboratory Network confirmed that the VDPV2 isolated from the NY case is genetically linked to two Sabin-like type 2 isolates collected from environmental samples in early June in both New York and Israel.

As well as the recently-detected VDPV2 from environmental samples in London.

The CDC says that polio is a crippling and potentially deadly disease that affects the nervous system.

Because the virus that causes polio lives in the feces of an infected person, people infected with polio can spread it when they do not wash their hands well after defecating.

People can also be infected if they drink water contaminated with infected feces.

This scenario recently became a reality in the London, England, area in July 2022, when poliovirus was identified in wastewater samples.

Most people with polio do not feel sick.

In rare cases, polio infection causes permanent loss of muscle function. Furthermore, polio can be fatal if the muscles used for breathing are paralyzed or if there is an infection of the brain, says the CDC.

The good news is polio is a vaccine-preventable disease.

While different polio vaccines are offered in various countries, most have proved effective. However, the OPV has not been used in the USA since 2000. 

In the USA, the IPOL vaccine is readily available.

Furthermore, certified travel clinics and pharmacies offer pre-departure travel vaccine counseling and vaccination services.

Other polio vaccine news is posted at this link.

Note: The CDC alert was manually curated for international travelers.