CDC Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions

Polio Outbreaks Confirmed in 14 African Countries

Africa travel alert elevated regarding expanding polio outbreaks
map of africa
Africa (Vax Before Travel)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) increased the polio outbreak Travel Alert for 14 African countries.

The CDC said in a new Level 2 Travel Alert published on December 11, 2019, that ‘there are confirmed polio outbreaks in various countries primarily located in central and eastern Africa.’

Additionally, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reported ‘polio-endemic countries, which have never stopped the transmission of indigenous wild poliovirus, can also be affected by outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus.’

This ‘Practice Enhanced Precaution’ Travel Alert is an important reminder to all travelers visiting the African countries listed below, to ensure they have previously completed the full polio vaccination series.

The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) both recommend visitors to infected areas for more than 4 weeks should receive an additional dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) or inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) within 4 weeks to 12 months of travel.

And, adults should discuss with a healthcare provider if it’s appropriate to receive a single booster dose of the polio vaccine.

The CDC and the GPEI have reported the following outbreak information for these 14 African countries:  

  • Angola - There are 71 cVDPV2 cases from seven outbreaks reported in 2019.
  • Benin - There are six cVDPV2 cases in 2019 linked to the Jigawa outbreak in Nigeria.
  • Cameroon - Affected by circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2).
  • Central African Republic - There are 16 reported cases in 2019 from six different outbreaks of cVDPV2 in 2019.
  • Chad - There is one cVDPV2 case in the country linked to the Jigawa outbreak in Nigeria.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo - There are 53 cVDPV2 cases in 2019 and 20 in 2018.
  • Ethiopia - Five cVDPV2 cases reported in Ethiopia in 2019, four of them are linked to the outbreak in neighboring Somalia and the fifth case is part of a newly reported Ethiopian outbreak this week.
  • Ghana - Nine cVDPV2 cases in 2019 linked to the Jigawa outbreak in Nigeria.
  • Mozambique - Circulation of cVDPV2 has been confirmed in Mozambique.
  • Niger - There are nine cVDPV2 cases in 2019 linked to the Jigawa outbreak in Nigeria.
  •  Nigeria - There are 18 cVDPV2 cases reported in 2019. There were 34 cVDPV2 cases in 2018.
  • Somalia - A total of 15 cVDPV cases (eight type 2, six type 3 and one co-infection of both type 2 and type 3) since the beginning of the outbreaks.  
  • Togo - There are three cVDPV2 cases in 2019 in the country linked to Jigawa outbreak in Nigeria.
  • Zambia - There is one cVDPV2 case from the first outbreak in the country.

According to the CDC, the United States has been polio-free since 1979, and the IPV has been the only polio vaccine offered in the USA since 2000. 

IPV is given by a shot in the leg or arm, at 4 different times, depending on the patient’s age. IPV vaccination has not been known to cause serious problems, but side effects are a potential risk, says the CDC.

In the USA, there are various IPV vaccines available, such as Kinrix and Pediarix.

Once vaccinated, your doctor should provide you with an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis yellow card. This will serve as your official documentation of polio vaccination.

Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly disease that affects the nervous system. Because the virus lives in the feces of an infected person, people infected with the disease can spread it to others when they do not wash their hands well after defecating. 

People can also be infected with polio if they drink water or eat food contaminated with infected feces.

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

Recently, there was some good news regarding the elimination of 2 out of 3 polio types.

An independent commission of experts concluded during October 2019, that wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) has been ‘eradicated’ around the world. This announcement follows the earlier eradication of wild poliovirus type 2 during 2015.

Additionally, global leaders affirm their commitment to eradicate polio and pledge $2.6 billion on November 19, 2019, as part of the 1st phase of the funding needed to implement the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s Polio Endgame Strategy 2019-2023.

Prior to traveling abroad, medication and vaccine counseling appointments can be scheduled with a travel specialist at Vax-Before-Travel.

Polio vaccine news published by Vax-Before-Travel.


Article by
Dani Reiter