The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Polio in Niger

Alert – Level 2, Practice Enhanced PrecautionsWatch

Key point

  • There is a polio outbreak in Niger.
  • CDC recommends that all travelers to Niger be vaccinated fully against polio.
  • Before traveling to Niger, adults who completed their routine polio vaccine series as children should receive a single lifetime adult booster dose of polio vaccine.
  • The outbreak in the Zinder region of Niger is caused by vaccine-derived poliovirus.
  • Outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus are a sign of low polio vaccine coverage in the country.

What is polio?

Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly disease that affects the nervous system. It is spread by lack of good hand washing practices and contact with tiny amounts of feces (poop) of an infected person. It is also spread by drinking water or eating food that is contaminated with infected feces.

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. In rare cases, polio infection causes permanent loss of muscle function (paralysis). Polio can be fatal if the muscles used for breathing are paralyzed or if there is an infection of the brain.

What is vaccine-derived polio?

The oral polio vaccine (made from a weakened strain of the poliovirus) is given as drops in the mouth to protect against polio. This vaccine has been extremely effective in wiping out polio in developing countries, when most of the population gets vaccinated. In areas where there are low rates of vaccination against polio and sanitation is poor, the weakened vaccine virus can spread from person to person. Over time, as the virus spreads, it can regain its ability to cause disease in people who are not vaccinated. Polio caused by a vaccine strain is called vaccine-derived polio.

Vaccine-derived polio cannot spread in the United States because the U.S has high vaccination rates against polio and the oral polio vaccine is not used here.

What is the current situation?

An outbreak of polio has been reported in the Zinder Region in Niger. This outbreak is caused by vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV).

To help control the outbreak, the United Nations is supporting the government of Niger in launching a polio campaign to vaccinate children under 5 years old in Agadez, Diffa, Maradi, and Zinder provinces.

What can travelers do to prevent polio?

Get the polio vaccine. CDC recommends that all travelers to Niger be vaccinated fully against polio. In addition, adults who have been fully vaccinated should receive a single lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine. Even if you were vaccinated as a child or have been sick with polio before, you may need a booster dose to make sure you are protected. See the Polio Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for more information.

If you will be in Niger for more than 4 weeks, the Nigerien government may require you to show proof of polio vaccination before you leave the country. To meet this requirement, you should get the polio vaccine between 4 weeks and 12 months before you leave Niger. Talk to your doctor about whether this requirement applies to you.

Clinician Information

For travelers going to countries with circulating VDPV who have completed their routine polio vaccine series but who have not already received an adult booster dose, CDC recommends administering a single lifetime inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) booster dose (more information).

Travelers who will be in Niger for more than 4 weeks may need an additional booster if the most recent dose of polio vaccine (completion of routine series or adult booster) was administered more than 12 months before the date of departure from Niger.

See the Vaccine section in Chapter 4, PoliomyelitisCDC Health Information for International Travel, for specific vaccination details.

Additional Information

Traveler Information