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Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract and invades the nervous system. It is most often spread through person-to-person contact with the stool of an infected person and may also be spread through oral/nasal secretions. Polio used to be very common caused severe illness in thousands of people each year before polio vaccine was introduced. Most people infected with the polio virus have no symptoms, however for the less than 1% who develops paralysis it may result in permanent disability and even death.

  • Approximately 95% of persons infected with polio will have no symptoms. However, infected persons without symptoms can still spread the virus and cause others to develop polio.
  • About 4-8% of infected persons have minor symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, flu-like symptoms, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the limbs, which often resolve completely.
  • Fewer than 1% of polio cases result in permanent paralysis of the limbs (usually the legs). Of those paralyzed, 5-10% die when the paralysis strikes the respiratory muscles. The death rate increases with increasing age.

Paralysis that can lead to permanent disability and death.

Polio is spread by person-to-person contact and only affects humans.

Currently, there is no treatment for polio that can kill the poliovirus. Antibiotics or other medications for polio are not effective because polio is caused by a virus. Therefore, treatment for polio focuses on providing relief of polio symptoms as the body fights the poliovirus. This is called supportive care.



Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is available. Children should be vaccinated with 5 doses at the following ages:

  • A dose at 6 weeks
  • A dose at 3 months
  • A dose at 4 months
  • A dose at 18 months
  • A booster dose at 16 years

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