Health Professionals

Clinical Updates

9 September 2011

Wild-type polio outbreak in China

The Ministry of Health, China, has informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the isolation of wild-type polio virus type 1 from four children aged between four months and two years [1].

The four children are from Hetian prefecture in Xianjian Uygur autonomous region in north-west China, and had onset of paralysis between 3 and 27 July 2011. Genetic sequencing indicates that the viruses are related to those currently circulating in Pakistan. The origin of the cases in China is not yet known. These are the first wild-type polio viruses to be reported in China since 1999 following polio importation from India. The last indigenous polio case was reported in China in 1994. The WHO Western Pacific region, including China, was certified polio-free in 2000 [2].

A national response team is investigating the cases and planning response activities. An initial vaccination campaign is to be conducted in early September targeting 3.8 million children in the affected region.

View a map of Xianjian Uygur autonomous region in China.

Advice for travellers

Polio is transmitted via contaminated food and water. All travellers should practise food, water and personal hygiene and complete a primary vaccination course for polio, according to the UK schedule.

In light of these cases and until investigations into this outbreak are completed, travellers visiting the Xianjian Uygur autonomous region of China are recommended to receive a booster dose of a polio-containing vaccine, if they have not had one in the previous 10 years. The NaTHNaC Country Information Page for China has been updated to reflect this change in advice.

Polio boosters are not currently recommended for travellers to other areas of China. All travellers should ensure that their routine immunisations, including MMR, are up-to-date. Advice on other health risks for travel to China can be found on the Country Information Page.


1. World Health Organization. Wild poliovirus confirmed in China. 1 September 2011. [Accessed 9 September 2011]. Available at:

2. Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Certification. [Accessed 9 September 2011]. Available at: