Skip to main content

What is polio?

What is polio?
Click to enlarge

Are you protected from polio?

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly contagious and debilitating viral infection that spreadsvia food and water.

After infection the virus that causes polio proliferates in the gastro-intestinal tract. But it can spread to the nervous system, resulting in lifelong paralysis, usually in the legs. Around one in 200 people infected by the polio virus experience such paralysis.

Most Canadians are protected from polio by the normal Canadian vaccine schedule.

Am I at risk of exposure to polio?

Canada has been polio-free for over 20 years. But if you are travelling to a place with poor infrastructure, then you may be at risk of exposure to polio. Your travel health adviser will tell you if your itinerary includes a destination with an active spread of polio.

The activities you have planned on your trip might increase the risk of you being exposed to polio. The following travellers should ensure they are protected:

  • aid workers
  • healthcare workers
  • laboratory workers
  • long-stay travellers
  • homestay travellers, such as those visiting friends and relatives.

And if you are travelling to care for a relative with polio, you should get a polio booster.

Do I need a polio shot?

The list of countries where polio is a risk changes all the time, so it’s best to get expert advice before deciding whether or not to get vaccinated against polio.

You may need proof of vaccination against polio before you leave a country with an outbreak of polio. If you cannot produce this, you could be stopped at the border and delayed. And you may, in some cases, need proof of vaccination against polio to enter certain countries. Your travel health nurse will help you work out whether you are likely to be affected by this.

Do I need a polio booster?

A polio booster (usually Revaxis) is recommended every ten years if you are travelling in areas where the infrastructure has broken down, or if you are doing activities that increase your risk of exposure to the polio virus.

What vaccine will protect me from polio?

Revaxis offers protection against polio, tetanus and diphtheria. We can offer it at Canadian Travel Clinics either as a booster or as a catch-up shot.

How is polio spread?

Polio is spread through contaminated food and water. It can also be spread via respiratory droplets.

You can reduce your chances of being exposed to the virus that causes polio through practising food safety and drinking only safe water. You should think carefully about where you wash and swim, too, as you could be exposed to the polio virus while swimming in a lake or river contaminated by sewage.

To avoid infection through respiratory droplets, practise good cough and sneeze etiquette. Sneeze or cough into your elbow (not your hand); use your knuckles to press lift buttons; and wash your hands before touching your face or mouth.

Learn more about the spread of polio through The World Health Organization.

Where can I get travel vaccinations in Etobicoke?

If you need an appointment at a travel clinic in Etobicoke, turn to Canadian Travel Clinics. It is quick and easy to book online.