The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


Polio in Syria

Updated August 4, 2014

What is the current situation?

According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative,External Web Site Icon  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.