2018-19 Outbreak of Polio in Papua New Guinea
On 22 June 2018, the Government of Papua New Guinea notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of an outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV1).
The Government of Papua New Guinea is working with partners, including WHO and UNICEF, to take appropriate outbreak response measures including surveillance, contact tracing, testing and vaccination.
2019 Outbreak of Polio in Papua Province, Indonesia
On 12 February 2019, circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV1) was confirmed in the Papua Province of Indonesia (Papua Province). While this Indonesian province shares a border with Papua New Guinea, this outbreak is not linked to the outbreak currently affecting Papua New Guinea.
The Indonesian Ministry of Health, supported by WHO, is undertaking contact tracing and testing, as well as strengthened disease surveillance and polio vaccination of children in the Papua Province.
More information about the situation in the Papua Province can be found on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative website.
Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV)
On very rare occasions, if a population is seriously under-immunised, the vaccine-virus can begin circulating in the community and, over 12-18 months, can mutate and cause severe symptoms. These viruses are called circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV).
This cannot occur with the injectable polio vaccine used in Australia.
Risk of Polio spreading in Australia
In the unlikely event that polio is imported into Australia, it is very unlikely to spread because of high rates of vaccine coverage, good sanitation, and the quality and ability of the health system to respond to cases.
The Australian Government continues to closely monitor the situation.
Public Health Emergency of International Concern
In 2014, the WHO declared the international spread of polio a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). WHO has issued Temporary Recommendations under the International Health Regulations 2005 for affected countries to reduce the risk of the international spread of polio.
Recommendations for Australian Travellers
Travel advice for Australians is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smartraveller website.
The Australian Immunisation Handbook recommends that Australians travelling to polio-affected countries should be up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including boosters, prior to departure.
- Australian residents planning to visit PNG and/or Papua Province, Indonesia 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 in PNG or Papua Province.
- Australian residents travelling to PNG and/or Papua Province who intend 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 from PNG or Papua Province. The booster may be given before arrival in PNG or Papua Province as long as it is given within 4 weeks to 12 months prior to leaving PNG or Papua Province.
- Individuals who are already residing in PNG or Papua Province for 4 weeks or longer should have a documented polio booster within 4 weeks to 12 months prior to departure from PNG/Papua Province (refer to WHO’s International Travel and Health website). The booster may have been given before arrival in PNG/Papua Province, as long as it has been given within 4 weeks to 12 months prior to leaving PNG or Papua Province. Individuals leaving PNG or Papua Province in less than 4 weeks should still receive a polio booster as this will still have benefit.
Consistent with WHO recommendations, polio-affected countries may require proof of vaccination when leaving the country.
Australian travellers should check their vaccination records and consult their general practitioner or travel doctor regarding their vaccination requirements.
Information for Health Professionals
The Australian Immunisation Handbook provides clinically-relevant information about the polio immunisation schedule in Australia.
For recommendations regarding the outbreak of polio in PNG and Papua Province, refer to Outbreaks of Polio in Papua New Guinea and Papua Province, Indonesia: Advice for Clinicians.
Australian Entry Requirements
The Department of Home Affairs website provides advice about entry requirements. Visa applicants from polio-affected countries, applying to come to Australia, may be required to provide a valid polio vaccination certificate.
There are no additional health entry requirements for Australian citizens or permanent residents as a result of the outbreak in PNG or Papua Province.
- For information about polio disease, refer to Polio Frequently Asked Questions.
- For information about vaccine-derived polioviruses, refer to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative website.
- For information about the status of polio in Australia, refer to Polio Surveillance.
- For information about the WHO’s work in Papua New Guinea, including media releases about WHO’s response to the outbreak, visit the WHO Papua New Guinea website.
- For technical information about the polio immunisation schedule in Australia, refer to the Australian Immunisation Handbook