Curtailing polio virus: WHO recommends travel restrictions on Pakistan

Pakistan  News Update – The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended travel restrictions on Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon over failure to control the spread of the polio virus.

If the WHO recommendation is approved it will be mandatory for citizens of these countries to have a polio vaccination certificate when they travel abroad.

Recommendations for the travel restrictions were put forward by a 21-member International Health Regulations Emergency Committee which was formed on the directives of WHO board members.

On April 30, five more polio cases were detected in three different areas of North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Bannu.

The National Institute of Health had also confirmed that five children were affected by the polio virus.

The new cases set alarms bells ringing for Islamabad as they coincide with a meeting of WHO’s health committee in Geneva where a report into polio situation in Pakistan was presented, triggering fears of travel ban on Islamabad.

According to WHO, Pakistan, Cameroon, and the Syrian Arab Republic pose the greatest risk of further wild poliovirus exportations in 2014. These States should:

– Officially declare, if not already done, at the level of head of state or government, that the interruption of poliovirus transmission is a national public health emergency;

ensure that all residents and long-term visitors (i.e. > 4 weeks) receive a dose of OPV or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) between 4 weeks and 12 months prior to international travel;

-Ensure that those undertaking urgent travel (i.e. within 4 weeks), who have not received a dose of OPV or IPV in the previous 4 weeks to 12 months, receive a dose of polio vaccine at least by the time of departure as this will still provide benefit, particularly for frequent travellers;

-Enaure that such travellers are provided with an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis in the form specified in Annex 6 of the International Health Regulations (2005) to record their polio vaccination and serve as proof of vaccination;

-Maitain these measures until the following criteria have been met: (i) at least 6 months have passed without new exportations and (ii) there is documentation of full application of high quality eradication activities in all infected and high risk areas; in the absence of such documentation these measures should be maintained until at least 12 months have passed without new exportations.

Once a State has met the criteria to be assessed as no longer exporting wild poliovirus, it should continue to be considered as an infected State until such time as it has met the criteria to be removed from that category.

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