Poliomyelitis (Polio) infection is caused by a virus which affects the nervous system and can lead to permanent paralysis, usually of the legs. Due to widespread polio vaccination, polio no longer exists in the UK.


Most people with polio won’t have any symptoms and will fight off the infection without even realising they were infected. A small number of people will experience a flu-like illness 3 to 21 days after they’re infected.

Symptoms can include:

  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • abdominal pain
  • aching muscles
  • feeling and being sick

These symptoms will usually pass within about a week.
In a small number of cases, the polio virus attacks the nerves in the spine and base of the brain. This can cause paralysis, usually in the legs, that develops over hours or days. The paralysis isn’t usually permanent, and movement will often slowly return over the next few weeks and months.

1. How do you catch it?

Polio can be spread through infected human waste or by eating/drinking contaminated food and water. It can also be spread from person to person through coughs and sneezes.

2. Prevention?

Try your best to stick to bottled water. Be careful with eating out (would definitely be worth your time to do prior research on restaurants/takeaways found at your destination). Additionally (and more importantly), if you are not already vaccinated, get yourself vaccinated!

3. Vaccination options

A course of the vaccine combining Diphtheria with Tetanus and polio is offered routinely in the UK from the age of 8 weeks. Depending on where you are travelling AND when you last had the combined vaccine, you may require a booster dose before you travel.

Number of doses? 1 dose.
When to do the course? Ideally, two weeks before your trip, although even a day before your trip is acceptable as form of protection.
Booster doses? The vaccine provides protection for 10 years. Booster dose is recommended every 10 years.
Age restrictions? Vaccine is available for anyone 6 years and above.

4. At risk destinations

Many countries have eradicated Polio through vaccination. It still exists in some African and Asian countries and cases continue to occur worldwide.

5. Our service

For a free risk assessment and expert advice, contact us today and speak with one of our dedicated healthcare professionals.

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