Polio in Syria
|Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel|
|Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions|
|Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions|
Updated: July 25, 2014
What is the current situation?
According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, 36 cases (1 case in 2014) of polio have been reported from the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) since the outbreak began in 2013. Due to conflict in the region, immunization rates have dramatically decreased.
CDC recommends that all travelers to Syria be fully vaccinated against polio. In addition, adults who have been fully vaccinated should receive a single lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine. As of May 5, 2014, people of all ages staying in Syria for longer than 4 weeks may be required to show proof of polio vaccination when departing Syria. Polio vaccine must be received between 4 weeks and 12 months before the date of departure from Syria and should be officially documented on a yellow vaccination card (International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis). Travelers should talk to their doctor about making sure they are properly prepared for any requirements they may face exiting Syria.
Because of the risk of cross-border transmission, CDC recommends a single lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine for fully vaccinated adults who are traveling to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey to work in health care facilities, refugee camps, or other humanitarian aid settings. This kind of work might put people in contact with someone who has polio.
What is polio?
Polio is a disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is mainly spread by person-to-person contact. Polio can also be spread by drinking water or other drinks or eating raw or undercooked food that are contaminated with the feces of an infected person.
Most people with polio do not feel sick. Some people have only minor symptoms, such as fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the arms and legs. Most people recover completely. In rare cases, polio infection causes permanent loss of muscle function in the arms or legs (usually the legs) or if there is loss of function of the muscles used for breathing or infection of the brain, death can occur.
What can travelers do to prevent polio?
- Get the polio vaccine:
- Ask your doctor or nurse to find out if you are up-to-date with your polio vaccination and whether you need a booster dose before traveling. Even if you were vaccinated as a child or have been sick with polio before, you may need a booster dose to make sure that you are protected. See individual destination pages for vaccine recommendation information.
- Make sure children are vaccinated.
- See Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for more information.
- Eat safe foods and drink safe beverages: Follow the Food and Water Safety tips to avoid exposure to any food and drinks that could be contaminated with the feces of a person infected with polio.
- Practice hygiene and cleanliness:
- Wash your hands often.
- If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who are sick.
- CDC Polio Homepage
- Polio Vaccine Questions and Answers
- Vaccine Information Statements (VIS)
- Food and Water Safety
All travelers to any country should be up-to-date on routine vaccinations, including polio vaccine. CDC recommends a single lifetime inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) booster dose for travelers to certain countries. See the Vaccine section in Chapter 3, Poliomyelitis, CDC Health Information for International Travel, for specific vaccination details.
See our Clinical Updates for more guidance on polio vaccination to polio-infected countries:
- Clinical Update: Polio Vaccine Guidance for Travelers and Note on Travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza
- Clinical Update: Interim CDC Guidance for Travel to and from Countries Affected by the New Polio Vaccine Requirements
- Interim CDC Guidance for Polio Vaccination for Travel to and from Countries Affected by Wild Poliovirus (MMWR, July 11, 2014)
- CDC HAN 362: Guidance to US Clinicians Regarding New WHO Polio Vaccination Requirements for Travel by Residents of and Long-term Visitors to Countries with Active Polio Transmission