What is the current situation?
Cases of vaccine-derived polio have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the World Health Organization. The cases occurred in Haut-Lomami Province and in Maniema Province.
Vaccine-derived polio can occur in places with low vaccination rates and poor sanitation where oral polio vaccine containing a weakened version of the virus is used. In such circumstances, this weakened virus can circulate for an extended period of time and change into a form that can cause paralysis.
CDC recommends that all travelers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo be fully vaccinated against polio. In addition, adults who have been fully vaccinated should receive a single lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine.
What is polio?
Polio is a disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system. It is spread by person-to-person contact, mainly through exposure to the feces of an infected person. You could also get polio by drinking water or other drinks or eating raw or undercooked food that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person.
Most people with polio do not feel sick. Some people have only minor symptoms, such as fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the arms and legs. Most people recover completely. In rare cases, polio infection causes permanent loss of muscle function in the arms or legs (usually the legs); if there is loss of function of the muscles used for breathing or an infection of the brain, death can occur.
What can travelers do to prevent polio?
- Get the polio vaccine:
- Ask your doctor or nurse to find out if you are up to date with your polio vaccination and whether you need a booster dose before traveling. Even if you were vaccinated as a child or have been sick with polio before, you may need a booster dose to make sure that you are protected. See individual destination pages for vaccine recommendation information.
- Make sure children are vaccinated.
- See the Polio Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for more information.
- Eat foods and drink beverages that are considered safe: Follow the Food and Water Safety tips to avoid eating or drinking things that could be contaminated with polio virus.
- Practice hygiene and cleanliness:
- Wash your hands often.
- If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups, with people who are sick.
All travelers to any country should be up to date on routine vaccinations, including polio vaccine. CDC recommends a single lifetime IPV booster dose for travelers to certain countries. See the Vaccine section in Chapter 3, Poliomyelitis, CDC Health Information for International Travel, for specific vaccination details.