What is Polio?
Poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio, is a highly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. Polio can cause severe damage to the brain and the spinal cord. The last known case of polio that occurred naturally in the United States was in 1979.
How does Polio Spread?
Polio lives in an infected person’s throat and intestines and can contaminate water and food. Polio spreads from person to person in a number of ways
- Contact with infected feces (poop)
- Contact with droplets from a sneeze or cough from an infected person
- Contact with contaminated food or water
A person who is infected with polio can spread the virus for up to two weeks, before and after symptoms begin.
What are the Symptoms of Polio?
The majority of people who become infected with polio do not show symptoms. There are two types of polio, Nonparalytic Polio and Paralytic Polio.
Nonparalytic polio causes mild, flu-like symptoms and does not lead to paralysis. Symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Back pain or stiffness
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Pain or stiffness in the arms or legs
- Muscle weakness or tenderness
A more serious form of polio that can lead to paralysis and causes. Symptoms include:
- Loss of reflexes
- Severe muscle aches or weakness
- Loose and floppy limbs (flaccid paralysis)
Some people can suffer from post-polio syndrome, years after they have recovered. Symptoms include:
- Progressive muscle or joint weakness and pain
- Muscle wasting (atrophy)
- Breathing or swallowing problems
- Sleep-related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea
- Decreased tolerance of cold temperatures
Preventing Polio and the Vaccine
In the United States, children receive 4 doses of the polio vaccine at
- Two months
- Four months
- Six months
- A booster dose between the ages 4 to 6 years old
Most adults in the United States have been vaccinated against polio. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, contact your local health department or speak with your provider. If you are unable to confirm your vaccination status talk to your doctor.
View a personal story of someone who was affected by polio.
Stay home if you are sick
Avoid close contact with
sick people and wear a mask
Cover your nose and mouth
when you sneeze
Wash your hands often
Clean and disinfect
Stay up to date on your vaccinations