The Health Department is warning Victorians travelling overseas to ensure they are fully vaccinated before leaving the country.

This follows the diagnosis of a poliomyelitis-like illness in a Victorian man in his 40s who works in the horn of Africa.

Victoria’s senior medical advisor, Dr Finn Romanes, said the man became ill in early April while in Somalia, returned home and is now in precautionary isolation at the Austin Hospital.

“He travelled back to Melbourne from Dubai this month and was admitted to the Austin Hospital. He is in a stable condition.

“Australia’s Polio Expert Panel has determined the man was not infectious during the flight or at the Austin.

“Tests have not detected poliovirus so there is virtually no chance of any infection being passed on.

“This case provides a timely reminder of the importance of getting up to date with all required vaccines before travel.

“The World Health Organisation has recently raised concerns about an increase in transmission of polio in a number of countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East,” Dr Romanes said.

Symptoms of polio are fever, vomiting and muscle stiffness. In about one per cent of cases it may progress to life-threatening illness, with severe muscle pain and stiffness of the neck and back with paralysis of the limbs.

Dr Romanes said anyone travelling overseas should visit their doctor or travel health clinic to find out what vaccinations they need.

“Even if you think your travel destination is safe or you are returning to visit family or friends, keep in mind that disease outbreaks can happen. Vaccination offers good protection against many diseases.

“Anyone planning to travel should check with their doctor, or visit the Commonwealth Department of Health webpage or the Smartraveller website for the latest information on international infection outbreaks and available vaccines.

“In addition to immunisations against new infectious diseases, you might need booster doses of vaccines that you have received before.

“While polio has been eradicated in most parts of the world, cases continue to be found in Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria and a number of other countries in Africa and Asia,” he said.

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