The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has issued a warning on the risks of poliovirus returning to the region.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one EU/EEA country (Romania) and two neighbouring countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ukraine) remain at high risk of a sustained polio outbreak partly due to insufficient vaccination coverage.
An additional 14 EU/EEA countries are at intermediate risk of sustained polio outbreaks.
The WHO recently reported vaccine-derived poliovirus pathogenic strain (cVDPV) outbreaks in Africa and Asia. It said that these outbreaks only occur due to lack of polio population immunity, highlighting the potential risk for further international spread.
Furthermore, the endemicity of wild poliovirus in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria constitutes an additional risk of the disease being imported into the EU/EEA.
To limit the risk of reintroduction and sustained transmission of poliovirus in the EU/EEA, it is crucial to maintain high vaccine coverage in the general population and to increase the vaccination uptake in the pockets of under-immunised populations, the ECDC said.
The EU/EEA has remained polio-free since 2002. However, the risk of reintroduction of the virus exists as long as there are non- or under-vaccinated population groups in European countries and poliomyelitis is not eradicated, according to the ECDC.