Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

News features

Outbreaks of Polio

Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that can spread from person to person or through contaminated water or food. Many people who are infected don’t have symptoms, but a small proportion of those with symptoms develop paralysis. There is no cure, but it can be prevented through vaccination.

The World Health Organization has advised of an increase in polio activity in areas which have previously seen eradication.  This includes New York (widespread wastewater detection as well as a confirmed case), Jerusalem (a confirmed case) and London (wastewater detections).This has led to a declaration of a State of Emergency in New York, with a view to increasing immunisation rates to prevent future outbreaks, and catch up and booster vaccination programmes in London and Israel.  Recently there has been  a case reported in November 2022 in Aceh province (Indonesia), another country where polio was previously eradicated. Three healthy children from the same community also subsequently tested positive for polio virus. The overall risk of a polio disease transmission in New Zealand due to importation is  low. The risk of ongoing transmission in New Zealand is also  low.  While we have high levels of sanitation and the ability of the health system to respond to cases in New Zealand, there has been a decline in childhood vaccination coverage in the context of COVID-19. 

The international  poliovirus situation is evolving, likely due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic such as interruptions to immunisation and other health services, exacerbated by conflict and complex emergencies in some fragile states. The New Zealand Ministry of Health continues to closely monitor the situation.

More information about the situation in  infected regions can be found on the World Health Organisation and Global Polio Eradication Initiative websites.

Health advice
Infections from vaccine-derived poliovirus occur on occasion in countries still using live poliovirus vaccine, and has now been seen in countries that do not use live poliovirus vaccine (e.g. USA) Vaccination against polio before travel will protect against these outbreaks. New Zealand does not use live poliovirus vaccine. New Zealanders travelling to polio-affected areas (please refer to the list of endemic countries or countries with poliovirus outbreak) should be up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including boosters, prior to departure. More specifically:

  • New Zealand residents planning to visit these areas for less than 4 weeks should be up to date with their polio vaccination. For adults, this is a 3 dose primary course, with a booster within the last 10 years. For children, a 3 dose primary course with a booster at 4 years old is currently recommended. These recommended vaccines may be given before arrival into the region.
  • New Zealand residents intending to stay for longer than 4 weeks should have a documented polio booster within 4 weeks to 12 months prior to the date of departure .The booster may be given before arrival, as long as it is given within 4 weeks to 12 months prior to leaving the region .
  • Individuals who are already residing in the affected region for 4 weeks or longer should have a documented polio booster within 4 weeks to 12 months prior to departure. The booster may have been given before arrival, as long as it has been given within 4 weeks to 12 months prior to leaving. Individuals leaving in less than 4 weeks should still receive a polio booster as this will still have benefit.
  • Travellers should be provided with a written record of such vaccination, preferably using the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, and keep this record during international travels.

This advice is in addition to any other travel-specific vaccinations that may be required.

Polio has been eradicated from New Zealand and from most of the countries around the world.

Useful links:

-          Polio Global Eradication Initiative

-          World Health Organization. “Vaccine-preventable diseases and vaccines.”

Associated Advisories:

Associated Pages:

Share this page:

Share this page:

Latest News features