Do I Need A Polio Vaccine After The Ukraine Outbreak? September 28, 2015 By Will Sowards Leave a Comment Packed suitcase? Check. Passport? Check. Boarding pass? Check. Polio Vaccine?… Planning a trip to a foreign country is exciting. Most of us start organizing all the things we need days or weeks in advance to make sure we are adequately prepared for our next adventure. As exciting as travel is, do not let excitement get in the way of taking proper health precautions. Researching tips on how to stay healthy is useful, but it is also necessary to add “update vaccinations” to the pre-travel checklist. Some of the countries you may be traveling to have endemic diseases that are not common in the U.S. such as yellow fever or typhoid, so you are unlikely to be vaccinated against them. In other cases, a country may be experiencing a rare outbreak of a disease, making it even more important to get that booster shot. Are You Prepared For Polio? Some travelers may be exposed to the disease. Stay protected with Passport Health! Polio eradication is a major goal of public health organizations. Through existing vaccines and educational awareness campaigns, polio has been eradicated from many countries. However, recently, a few nations that were previously polio-free have experienced polio cases. Mali and the Ukraine have had confirmed polio cases this month, news that has these countries on edge with officials fearing possible future outbreaks. These cases highlight the ongoing need to remain up-to-date on vaccinations, especially the polio vaccine, when traveling to foreign nations. Polio outbreaks are very serious because the disease is so contagious. The polio virus attacks the nervous system and can cause fever, muscle aches or paralysis, fatigue, pain, and sometimes death. What makes these cases in Mali and the Ukraine particularly unique is that the contracted cases are thought to be a result of vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV). This is extremely rare and occurs when a weakened virus from an oral polio vaccine (which is not available in the U.S.) regains its virulence and therefore its ability to infect others. This is more likely to happen in areas with low immunization rates. Many children in the Ukraine, for example, are under-immunized (as many as 50% of children may not be vaccinated). Oral polio vaccines are typically not used in the U.S. but are very common in the developing world. It is precisely because of these cases that polio vaccination is so important. These cases may not have happened if there were higher polio immunization rates in these regions. If you are planning on international travel, make sure you have received a polio vaccine. Are you protected? Many people have no idea what they have already been vaccinated against. Find out what you need with titer testing through Passport Health! Most adults do not need the polio vaccine if they were vaccinated as children. However, the CDC recommends that those traveling to polio-endemic or outbreak-prone areas should speak to their healthcare provider about the polio vaccine and an adult booster. Before traveling to foreign countries, get in the habit of addressing your health and any vaccines and medicines you may need well before your trip. It is easy for travelers to get so caught up with all the fun things that are planned and making sure travel documents and itineraries are ready that it is easy to forget the importance of checking on vaccination against the diseases that may be present in the countries to be visited. A quick visit with a Passport Health travel medicine specialist will put your mind at ease because you will know that the expert health advice and vaccines you receive will make you prepared for any illnesses, including polio, you may encounter in your travels. The next time you are making your checklist, don’t forget to add vaccinations to the list! What are your thoughts about the recent polio outbreaks in Mali and the Ukraine? Let us know in the comments section below, on our Facebook page or via Twitter!