Health Warning for Poliovirus

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On Monday 5 May 2014 the WHO Director General (DG) declared the recent international spread of wild poliovirus a “public health emergency of international concern” and issued Temporary Recommendations under the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005.

The Temporary Recommendations are for an initial period of 3 months and only apply to travellers from the 10 countries deemed to have active transmission of poliovirus: Pakistan, Cameroon, Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Nigeria.  Under these recommendations countries that are currently exporting wild poliovirus (Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria), must ensure that travellers, including all residents and long-term visitors (greater than 4 weeks) have documented proof of vaccination prior to departure from the country. The other seven countries (Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Nigeria) are required to encourage all residents and long term visitors to be vaccinated against polio before international travel. These requirements will affect Australians who visit the countries outlined for a period greater than 4 weeks.
Recommendations for Australian travellers

It is recommended that Australians travelling to Pakistan, Cameroon, Syria, Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia or Nigeria are up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster, prior to departure.

Australians travelling to Pakistan, Cameroon or Syria, and staying for periods greater than 4 weeks, will be required to have documented evidence of having received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from these countries. If you do not have documented evidence of polio vaccination within this 12 month period, you may be required to be vaccinated prior to departure from these countries.

Australians travelling to Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia or Nigeria, and staying for periods greater than 4 weeks, are encouraged to have documented evidence of having received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from these countries. If you do not have documented evidence of polio vaccination within this 12 month period, you may be encouraged to be vaccinated prior to departure from these countries.  Australian travellers should consult with their general practitioner regarding their vaccination requirements.

Information regarding the declaration and recommendation for Australian travellers is on the Department of Health’s website available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-poliomyelitis.htm

The WHO statement is available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2014/polio-20140505/en/

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller website includes advice on vaccination for travellers to the 10 polio infected countries in line with the WHO Temporary Recommendations available at:  http://smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/