Chronic respiratory disease

March 2010

Clinical

Poliomyelitis

Prevention in travellers

Volume 39, No.3, March 2010 Pages 122-125

Cora A Mayer

Amy A Neilson

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 epidemiological information.

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

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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Article Series

Travel medicine

Type

Clinical