Polio, Tetanus and Diphtheria

What is Polio, Tetanus and Diphtheria?

Polio cases have fallen by more than 99% since 1988, from 350,000 cases to only 223 in 2012. This reduction is due to global efforts to wipe out the disease by introducing widespread vaccination schemes.

When given as a booster prior to travel, the polio, diphtheria and tetanus vaccine requires only one injection. If you last had this vaccine more than ten years ago, you'll need a booster before you travel.

It contains active ingredients to help your body develop an immunity to all three diseases. Don’t worry if you notice redness, swelling or soreness at the site of injection, as this is a common side effect. You may also feel unwell, experience nausea or develop a fever and headache shortly after the jab.

Polio is a viral infection, which was very common in the UK during the 1940s and 1950s. Due to widespread polio vaccination, polio no longer exists in the UK. The polio virus causes damage to the nervous system, which can lead to permanent paralysis and death.

Polio survivors often develop post-polio syndrome (PPS) later in life, which causes fatigue and muscle weakness. PPS can occur decades after the polio infection and can not be cured.

If you have grown up in the UK, it is very likely that you were vaccinated during your childhood. If you are planning to travel to a country which has not yet beaten polio, you may need a booster polio vaccine.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection caused by clostridium tetani bacteria. Infection usually occurs if these bacteria enter an open wound after injury. The risk of developing tetanus is particularly high after an animal bite and if the wound has been in contact with soil or manure. The same applies, if the wound contains a foreign body or if there is a delay in the wound being cleaned and treated. 

The most typical symptom of tetanus is the stiffness of your jaw muscles, also referred to as lockjaw. Tetanus patients tend to develop cramps and muscle spasms over 1 - 4 days, which can have an impact on their ability to breathe and swallow. The spasms may be accompanied by fever, excessive sweating and an unusually rapid heartbeat. If left untreated, there is a high risk of sudden cardiac death, pulmonary embolism, aspiration pneumonia and kidney failure. 

A tetanus vaccine provides reliable protection.

Diphtheria is a highly contagious infection, which can spread rapidly. It is transmitted through contact with the saliva and mucus of an infected person. Most people in the UK have been vaccinated against the illness, which is why it is a very rare occurrence. 

Typical symptoms of diphtheria are a high fever, sore throat, difficulties breathing and a grey or white membrane in the patient’s throat. Patients diagnosed with diphtheria need to be isolated while undergoing antibiotic treatment. 

Diphtheria can lead to serious complications and fatal conditions, such as difficulty breathing and inflammation of the heart. To prevent diphtheria, you must ensure your diphtheria vaccine is up to date. If you are travelling to a risk area, you may require a booster diphtheria jab to be safe.

If you are travelling to a risk area for polio or diphtheria, you may need the polio, diphtheria and tetanus vaccine. Whether you require this booster depends on the date of your last vaccination. 

If you received your last polio and diphtheria vaccination more than 10 years ago or you didn’t finish your last vaccination course, you will require additional protection before travelling. 

The tetanus vaccine is recommended for anyone travelling to an area with limited access to medical facilities. Areas with a high incidence of polio and diphtheria include parts of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

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