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Travel: Polio found in Israel

UK residents traveling to Israel or the West Bank and Gaza in Palestine will need to have a polio-containing vaccine. 

Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) said a naturally occurring polio virus has been found in 91 sewage samples from across Israel. 

There have been no cases of the paralyzing illness caused by polio in Israel or the West Bank and Gaza, but the findings suggest that the virus is circulating in the environment. 

Anyone who has not been vaccinated in the past 10 years could be at risk of contracting the disease. 

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “Many people in the UK will already be fully immunised against polio from their routine childhood immunisations. 

“However travellers to Israel and Palestine need to check their vaccination status before travel and should receive a booster dose if they have not had one in the past 10 years.” 

Polio is contracted by eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by close contact with someone infected with the poliovirus. 

The disease can be prevented by having a full course of vaccination, which has been used routinely in the UK since the 1950s.

The Israeli health authorities are monitoring the situation closely. They have increased the frequency of environmental sampling and are conducting active surveillance to search for potential cases of paralytic polio.