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World Polio Day 2023

23 October 2023

World Polio day is held annually on the 24 October, to highlight and support the ongoing global fight to end polio for good.

Polio, or paralytic poliomyelitis, is a highly infectious enteroviral infection that most commonly affects children under the age of 5 years who are inadequately vaccinated against the infection. The virus attacks the central nervous system, and in some instances can lead to paralysis of one or more parts of the body. Although there is no cure for the resulting paralysis, there exist safe and effective vaccines to prevent individuals from catching the disease, including an inactivated poliovirus given by injection and a weakened live poliovirus given by mouth.

Since 1988, the global incidence of polio has reduced by 99.9%. With effective vaccine coverage, it is possible to eliminate the disease. However, high levels of immunisation are required to stop transmission and prevent outbreaks.

Currently polio remains endemic in only 2 countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, due to low levels of population immunity there are numerous other countries where outbreaks are emerging, either through importation of cases of active polio from another country, or emergence and circulation of poliovirus which can occasionally be shed by a person in their stool following them having received the live oral polio vaccine (see earlier).

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative works to eradicate polio worldwide so that, if possible, all children are adequately protected against paralytic poliomyelitis.

  • Eradicating polio will depend heavily on reaching vulnerable populations, especially children, and overcoming political, social, religious and cultural hurdles in areas that are remote or in conflict.
  • Globally, 2 of the 3 wild poliovirus strains have been eradicated, leaving only wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) still in circulation. Eradicating these strains shows that tactics to vaccinate every child are effective and that eradication of all types of poliovirus is possible.
  • Until poliovirus is completely eradicated from the world, populations in all countries remain at risk of becoming re-infected.

Advice to travellers

Poliomyelitis (polio) is spread mainly through faecal-oral transmission. It is highly infectious.  Human beings are the only known reservoir of the virus. The disease can result in permanent paralysis and can sometimes be life-threatening.

More information can be found on the TRAVAX Poliomyelitis page.