Poliomyelitis is an acute illness caused by serotypes 1, 2 or 3 of the poliomyelitis virus, an enterovirus from the family Picornaviridae.1 Poliomyelitis viruses have a ribose nucleic acid (RNA) genome, and transiently inhabit the gastrointestinal tract. The virus enters the mouth and multiplies in the pharynx and gastrointestinal cells, then enters the blood stream via local lymphoid tissue. It can then invade the central nervous system and multiply in the motor neurons of anterior horn cells of the spinal cord and brain stem, and cells of the roof of the cerebellum and the motor cortex, causing their destruction.1–3
This article is the second in a series providing a summary of prevention strategies and
vaccination for infections that may be acquired by travellers. The series aims to provide
practical strategies to assist general practitioners in giving travel advice, as a synthesis
of multiple information sources which must otherwise be consulted.
Poliomyelitis is a potentially fatal viral illness, which may cause acute flaccid paralysis
and permanent central nervous system damage. Ongoing global efforts to eradicate
poliomyelitis have been under way since 1988. Travellers are at risk of infection in
countries with endemic wild poliomyelitis virus or imported cases, and can spread the
infection to areas where poliomyelitis has been eradicated. While all adults should
be immune to poliomyelitis, it is important that at risk travellers are vaccinated
appropriately. Vaccine options and regions currently reporting poliomyelitis are
presented from a number of sources, which may facilitate the process of giving travel
advice in a general practice setting, although it is also important to seek up-to-date
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