In May 2013, Israel announced the detection of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in the south of the country (1). As reported until mid-August, during the routine monitoring of sewage samples the virus had been found in 67 sewage samples from 24 sampling sites since February 2013.
A faecal survey conducted among individuals in the southern part of the country confirmed WPV1 transmission among asymptomatic carriers; 26 were children appropriately immunised for their age group with inactivated polio vaccine (IPV); one was a young infant aged two months and one an elderly person in their 70s. No symptomatic polio cases have been identified to date.
On 4 August 2013, in response to the detection of WPV1 in sewage and clinical samples, Israel started a poliovirus supplementary vaccination campaign in southern parts of the country with a bivalent oral polio vaccine (OPV), targeting all children below nine years of age (and aged above 2 months)(2). On 9 August 2013, the Ministry of Health decided to expand the vaccination campaign to the entire country starting on 18 August (3). OPV, which is known to be effective at producing mucosal immunity, has not been used since 2005 in Israel. T
he current immunisation schedule in Israel consists of five doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV). Childhood immunisation coverage against polio in Israel, with four doses of IPV, is very high (90%–95%). During the campaign, IPV is also being offered to all incompletely vaccinated adults and those without documentation.
In addition to the vaccination campaign, the Israeli Ministry of Health is continuing environmental sampling; is enhancing routine acute flaccid paralysis surveillance by targeting all age groups and is screening aseptic meningitis cases for poliovirus.