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Polio Outbreak, China

Polio had not been reported in China since the 1990s.  But during July 2011, polio cases began to reappear in western China, in the relatively isolated area of Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.  As of 19 October 2011, there were 18 confirmed polio cases in children and young adults.


The Chinese health authorities have responded with a mass vaccination campaign targeting over 4 million children aged under 15 years in the key affected outbreak area, and children aged under 5 years in other areas of Xinjiang.


As a result of this outbreak, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has recommended that travelers to all parts of China should be up-to-date on the polio vaccine.


Most people infected with polio develop mild illness or no symptoms at all; however some can develop paralysis of parts of the body.   Polio infection can be lethal when it involves the breathing muscles.  In the 1950's during polio outbreaks in the USA, thousands of people became paralyzed.  Many required treatment with breathing machines or developed permanent disabilities.


Polio is spread by eating or drinking items contaminated with the feces of a person infected with polio.  Poliovirus can also be spread through oral fluids, water, and uncooked food.  The disease mainly affects children less than 5 years old, but unvaccinated people of any age are at risk. 

Vaccine Recommendations: Infants and Children

  • Infants and children should receive 4 doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6–18 months, and 4–6 years of age.
  • A dose of IPV should be administered at age ≥4 years regardless of the number of previous doses.

Vaccine Recommendations: Adults

  • Travelers who have received a complete polio vaccine series as a child should receive one adult booster dose of IPV
  • Travelers of any age who are unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or whose vaccination status is unknown should receive 3 doses of IPV


Read more about the outbreak:

WHO - Wild Poliovirus in China - Update

CDC - Polio Outbreak in China

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