WHO Extends Polio Emergency Three Months
During the 36th meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations on the international spread of poliovirus on August 16, 2023, the Emergency Committee reviewed the data on wild poliovirus (WPV1) and circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV) in the context of global eradication of WPV and cessation of outbreaks of cVDPV2 by the end of 2023.
Although encouraged by the reported progress, the World Health Organization (WHO) Committee announced on August 25, 2023, that it unanimously agreed that the risk of international spread of poliovirus remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and recommended the extension of Temporary Recommendations for a further three months.
The Committee stated it recognizes the concerns regarding the lengthy duration of the polio PHEIC and the importance of exploring alternative measures.
Nevertheless, the Committee felt it was still too early to discontinue the PHEIC as the risk of exportation of both WPV and cVDPVs remains significant, and the removal of the PHEIC may send the wrong message at this critical juncture in polio eradication.
The WHO Director-General endorsed the Committee’s recommendations for countries meeting the definition of ‘States infected with WPV1, cVDPV1 or circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 3, a strain of poliovirus mutated from the strain in the oral polio vaccine.
In the United States, poliovirus detections have been limited to the greater New York area in 2022 and 2023.
On August 28, 2023, the New York State Department of Health reconfirmed the presence of poliovirus in local wastewater. Detecting the virus in local sewage suggests it is circulating in New York City (NYC).
The detection in NYC is particularly concerning to health officials because polio vaccinations continue to decrease in a city of millions of residents.
To notify international travelers planning to visit any of the 33 known polio-outbreak countries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reissued a Level 2 Travel Health Advisory in late July 2023.
The CDC says children and adults should be current on their routine polio vaccines.
Additionally, adult travelers may get an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) booster if they go to a destination with circulating poliovirus, have completed their routine polio vaccine series, and have not already received one adult booster dose.
In the U.S., IPVs are generally available at health clinics and pharmacies in August 2023.