Skip to main content

Protect yourself from polio while travelling

How do travellers avoid polio?

Polio is a dangerous disease that can have life-changing consequences. The World Health Organization recently announced that polio was a public health emergency of international concern. There is no cure, but it is vaccine preventable. The vaccine Revaxis protects adults from diphtheria, tetanus and polio.

What is polio?

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a viral infection that can result in lifelong paralysis. It is contracted via contaminated food and water or via respiratory droplets (coughs and sneezes) and the virus infects the gut. Polio infection can spread from the gut to the nervous system, which is why it sometimes results in paralysis.

Am I vaccinated against polio?

Travellers wondering whether they are safe from polio should check their medical records. You should be protected from polio by the normal Canadian vaccination schedule, but you may need a booster. And if you missed out on your vaccinations, then you may not be protected from polio. When you come to Canadian Travel Clinics your nurse adviser will ask you about your vaccination history and this will help them decide whether you need to be vaccinated against polio.

By the way, previous infection by the polio virus does not protect you from being infected again. So ask about this shot even if you have had polio.

Should I get a polio booster?

The polio booster may be recommended to anyone visiting an area where there is a polio outbreak. Check with your nurse adviser whether this applies to your trip.

Am I at risk from exposure to polio?

In many countries there is little or no risk of exposure to polio. But polio outbreaks occur wherever infrastructure is poor, such as in warzones or in the aftermath of natural disasters. You should check with your travel health adviser to find out whether you could be exposed to polio on your trip. The list of countries with active spread of polio changes frequently as the situation alters on the ground, but your nurse adviser will have all the latest information. Some travellers – for example, aid and healthcare workers and anyone visiting friends or relatives and staying in their home – are at increased risk of being exposed to the polio virus.

How do I avoid exposure to polio?

You can reduce your chances of being exposed to the polio virus by taking normal precautions with food and water. See our articles on safe water and safe food for more information. Frequent and thorough handwashing will also help protect you from polio.

Do I need a vaccine certificate for polio?

Some destinations, particularly places where there is active spread of polio, will require you to show a proof of vaccination against polio before you can leave. Ask your travel health adviser whether this applies to your journey. If you have a polio vaccination certificate, you should certainly carry it when you travel.

Where can I get travel vaccinations in Ottawa?

If you need an appointment at a travel clinic in Ottawa to find out more about polio vaccination, turn to Canadian Travel Clinics. It is quick and easy to book online.