Polio (poliomyelitis) is a viral infection that can cause difficulty in breathing, paralysis and death. It is a highly contagious virus that attacks the nervous system. It has largely been wiped out around the world, but is still epidemic in some countries around the world. Children are particularly at risk and are vaccinated as part of the childhood vaccination programme in the UK.
Polio does not cause any symptoms in 95% of cases. When symptoms do appear it is within up to 20 days. In mild forms symptoms are flu-like with temperature, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat and fatigue. In rare cases (1% to 5%) can show sensitivity to light and neck stiffness. In severe cases (0.1% to 2%) can get permanent paralysis and disability and death due difficulties in breathing.
Countries at risk
Polio is widespread in Central African and certain areas of Asia and the Middle East. The only three countries where polio remains epidemic is Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. The infection is spread in areas of poor sanitation, where food and water become contaminated with the faeces (stools) of an infected person.
Advice for travellers
Polio is very contagious and is spread by eating and drinking contaminated food and water. Poor sanitation and poor hand hygiene aid transmission.By following basic precautions you can prevent yourself from catching polio.
Only drink water that has been recently boiled, or drink from a bottle that is properly sealed.
Avoid ice cream and don't have ice in your drinks
Avoid uncooked fruits and vegetables unless you have washed them in safe water or peeled them yourself
Avoid shellfish, seafood or salad. Ensure food is freshly cooked and served hot.
Follow good personal hygiene and hand washing rules.
There's no cure for polio so it's important to take preventative measures by making sure travellers to high risk areas receive a single dose vaccination. This protects against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. All children are offered the vaccine as part of the childhood programme. Further booster doses are usually only recommended if you're going to visit parts of the world where polio is widespread and your last vaccination dose was more than 10 years ago.
Number of doses
From 10 years:
Diphtheria, tetanus and polio- One dose (provided childhood course completed)
Meningitis ACWY For Hajj/Umrah
Meningitis symptoms can develop quickly and they can be difficult to spot as they as similar to symptoms of flu. Infection with meningitis is an emergency and requires admission into a hospital where you will be given antibiotics. All pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah are required to show proof of vaccination in the last three years against meningitis ACWY.
Vaccination is required at least 10 days before you are due to travel and you will also receive a certificate as part of your vaccination.