Poliomyelitis; Health Awareness when Traveling to India

Poliomyelitis, long thought to be eradicated in the world, has proliferated in countries outside of the United States. Specifically seen in a recent epidemic in India, poliomyelitis has become a growing health concern of the World Health Organization. Although eliminated in many countries, the impact of the poliomyelitis virus, on children, is significant. Understanding the causes, symptoms and various preventative measures, will ensure a safe and healthy traveling experience when visiting areas outside of the United States, including India.

Poliomyelitis, attributed to a virus, is highly infectious and is passed through inhalation. Poliomyelitis symptoms generally begin as symptoms similar to that of the influenza virus, such as fever, vomiting, headache and extreme fatigue. In addition to influenza type symptoms, poliomyelitis symptoms may exhibit in the form of a respiratory disorder leading to respiratory distress. A neurological disorder attributed to a viral infection, poliomyelitis can result in lower leg paralysis and often leads to death in five to 10 percent of the cases. Generally affecting children, under the age of five, poliomyelitis is debilitating and can afflict a population of children when exposed to one child. For this reason, when traveling to India, ensuring the children also traveling are protected with the appropriate vaccinations recommended by the immunization programs of the United States.

In addition to transmission by inhalation, the poliomyelitis virus is also more prevalent when temperatures are volatile such as the seasons of summer and fall. With no cure available, taking the appropriate preventative measures to prevent polio contraction are vitally important, especially for children and especially when traveling to India.

As per the recommendation of the medical community, the administration of Vitamin A is prudent, in addition to the use of a four dose administration of the polio vaccine to children. Currently, in the United States, the polio vaccine is no longer a required part of the immunization program for newborns. For this reason, when traveling to India with children, consult your child’s pediatrician regarding the administration of the poliomyelitis vaccine prior to departure to India. As an adult, the polio vaccine may have been administered in the form of an injection in the arm and, therefore, is generally not a required immunization for anyone other than children. When traveling overseas, pumping the extra administration of Vitamin A may provide an added benefit for prevention of acquiring poliomyelitis while traveling in India.

Traveling to India is a trip many international travelers experience once in a lifetime. With the prevalence of polio spiking in recent years, ensuring proper protection, prior to travel, will guarantee a happy and healthy travel experience. When considering travel to India, discuss all required immunization including the poliomyelitis vaccine and the use of additional Vitamin A. Additionally, register with the United States Embassy to ensure proper notification of any additional health alerts while traveling.

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