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<h1>Polio</h1> <p class="attribution" id="byline"> Written by Shannon Johnson<br/>Medically Reviewed by <a href="http://www.healthline.com/health/medical-board">Romilla Anwar, MD</a> </p> <div class="hl-widget-sharebar c"></div> <div class="sharebarContainer"><a class="link-sharebar" href="#overlaySharebar" id="sharebarLink" rel="#overlaySharebar"></a></div> </header> <nav class="hl-tab-navigation"> <div class="hl-arrow-tabnav hl-left-arrow-tabnav hl-icon-left-arrow"></div> <div class="hl-lpipe-tabnav"></div> <div class="hl-tabs-tabnav"> <ul> <li><a href="#Overview"> Overview</a></li> <li><a href="#Types"> Types</a></li> <li><a href="#Causes"> Causes</a></li> <li><a href="#Symptoms"> Symptoms</a></li> <li><a href="#Diagnosis"> Diagnosis</a></li> <li><a href="#Treatment"> Treatment</a></li> <li><a href="#Prevention"> Prevention</a></li> </ul></div> <div class="hl-rpipe-tabnav"></div> <div class="hl-arrow-tabnav hl-right-arrow-tabnav hl-icon-right-arrow"></div> </nav> <div class="grid648"> <div class="container-article" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Article"> <article class="hl-article-toc"> <h2 class="content_head" id="TOC_TITLE_HDR_1"><a name="Overview"></a>What Is Polio? </h2><div class="content_body" id="TOC_TITLE_1"> <p> Polio (also known as poliomyelitis) is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Children younger than 5 years old are more likely to contract the virus than any other group. </p> <p>According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 200 polio infections will result in permanent paralysis. However, the disease has been largely eradicated thanks to the development of a polio vaccine. The most recent WHO poll, in 2010, reported only 1,352 cases of polio worldwide. (<a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs114/en/">WHO</a>)</p> <p>Thanks to the polio vaccine, the U.S. has not had a reported case of polio since 1979. However, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria still have frequent outbreaks. </p> </div> <h2 class="content_head" id="TOC_TITLE_HDR_2"><a name="Types"></a>Types of Polio </h2> <div class="content_body" id="TOC_TITLE_2"> <p>There are three types of polio infections:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Sub-clinical</strong>: Approximately 95 percent of polio cases are sub-clinical, and patients may not experience any symptoms. This form of polio does not affect the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).</li> <li><strong>Non-paralytic</strong>: This form, which does affect the central nervous system, produces only mild symptoms and does not result in paralysis.</li> <li><strong>Paralytic</strong>: This is the rarest and most serious form of polio, which produces full or partial paralysis in the patient. There are three types of paralytic polio: spinal polio (affects the spine), bulbar polio (affects the brainstem), and bulbospinal polio (affects the spine and brainstem).</li> </ul> <p><strong>Post-polio syndrome</strong> is a complication that can occur after a person has caught and recovered from poliovirus. Symptoms of the syndrome can appear up to 35 years after the polio infection. </p> </div> <h2 class="content_head" id="TOC_TITLE_HDR_3"><a name="Causes"></a>What Causes Polio? </h2> <div class="content_body" id="TOC_TITLE_3"> <p>Poliovirus is often transmitted from person-to-person through fecal matter. People living in areas with limited access to running water or flush toilets often get the virus from drinking water contaminated by human waste that contains the virus. </p> <p>In addition, the virus can be spread by contaminated food or water or direct contact with another infected person. According to the May Clinic, the virus that causes polio is so contagious that anyone living with an infected person will likely become infected themselves. (<a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/polio/DS00572/DSECTION=causes">Mayo Clinic</a>)</p> <p>Pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, such as HIV+ people, and young children are the most susceptible to the polio virus. If you have not been vaccinated, you increase your risk of contracting polio by:</p> <ul> <li>traveling to an area that has had a recent polio outbreak </li> <li>taking care of or living with someone infected with polio </li> <li>handling a laboratory specimen of the virus</li> <li>having your tonsils removed</li> <li>extreme stress, which can compromise immune system function</li> </ul> </div> <h2 class="content_head" id="TOC_TITLE_HDR_4"><a name="Symptoms"></a>Recognizing the Symptoms of Polio </h2> <div class="content_body" id="TOC_TITLE_4"> <p>Sub-clinical polio may not trigger noticeable symptoms. In fact it is estimated that 95 to 99 percent of infected patients are asymptomatic. In the five percent of polio cases in which patients do experience symptoms, they can range from mild to severe. Paralytic polio (polio that leads to paralysis) has more severe symptoms and can be fatal. Patients with non-paralytic polio experience mild, flu-like symptoms. </p> <h3>Sub-Clinical Polio</h3> <p>If patients do have symptoms, they usually last for 72 hours or less and may include:</p> <ul> <li>headache</li> <li>sore, red throat</li> <li>slight fever</li> <li>vomiting</li> <li>general discomfort</li> </ul> <h3>Non-Paralytic Polio </h3> <p>The symptoms of non paralytic polio may last for a couple of days to a week or two and includes</p> <ul> <li>fever</li> <li>sore throat in the absence of upper respiratory infection</li> <li>headache</li> <li>vomiting</li> <li>fatigue</li> <li>abnormal reflexes</li> <li>problems swallowing and/or breathing</li> <li>back and neck pain and stiffness, particularly neck stiffness with forward flexion of the neck</li> <li>arm and leg pain or stiffness</li> <li>muscle tenderness and spasms</li> </ul> <h3>Paralytic Polio </h3> <p>People with paralytic polio experience the symptoms associated with non-paralytic polio first. Soon after, the following symptoms appear:</p> <ul> <li>loss of reflexes</li> <li>severe spasms and muscle pain</li> <li>loose and floppy limbs, sometimes on just one side of the body, this is due to the weakness which results from the involvement of the spine</li> <li>sudden paralysis (temporary or permanent) </li> <li>deformed limbs (especially the hips, ankles, and feet due to prolonged weakenss and the lack of appropriate orthopedic bracing</li> </ul> <p>Full paralysis can eventually develop, but it is rare. Only about one percent of all polio cases will result in a person being permanently paralyzed. Of those patients who experience paralysis, five to 10 percent will die when the paralysis attacks the muscles that control breathing. (<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/in-short-both.htm">CDC</a>)</p> <h3>Post-Polio Syndrome</h3> <p>The symptoms of post-polio syndrome are:</p> <ul> <li>continuing muscle and joint weakness</li> <li>muscle pain that gets worse</li> <li>becoming easily exhausted or fatigued</li> <li>muscle wasting, also called muscle atrophy</li> <li>trouble breathing and/or swallowing </li> <li>sleep related breathing problems (sleep apnea)</li> <li>becoming easily cold or </li> <li>new onset of weakness in previously uninvolved muscles</li> </ul> </div> <h2 class="content_head" id="TOC_TITLE_HDR_5"><a name="Diagnosis"></a>How Do Doctors Diagnose Polio? </h2> <div class="content_body" id="TOC_TITLE_5"> <p>Doctors will use the patient’s reported symptoms to help determine whether he or she has polio. During a physical examination, a doctor may notice that the patient has impaired reflexes, back and neck stiffness, or difficulty lifting his or her head while lying flat. </p> <p>To definitively diagnose polio, a doctor will take a sample of the patient’s throat secretions, stool, or cerebrospinal fluid (fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord). The sample is then tested to see if it contains poliovirus and if the cells in the cerebrospinal fluid demonstrate changes consistent with what is called aseptic meningitis (a brain infection) </p> </div> <h2 class="content_head" id="TOC_TITLE_HDR_6"><a name="Treatment"></a>How Do Doctors Treat Polio? </h2> <div class="content_body" id="TOC_TITLE_6"> <p>There is no cure for polio. Doctors can only treat the symptoms while the infection runs its course. The most common treatments include:</p> <ul> <li>rest</li> <li>painkillers to relieve headaches, muscle aches, and muscle spasms</li> <li>antibiotics for urinary tract infections</li> <li>portable ventilators to help with breathing</li> <li>physical therapy and/or corrective braces to help with walking</li> <li>heating pads or warm towels to ease muscle aches and spasms</li> <li>physical therapy to treat pain in the affected muscles</li> <li>physical therapy to address breathing and pulmonary problems and then pulmonary rehabilitation to increase the patient’s pulmonary endurance as the acute breathing problems improve</li> <li>In advanced cases of leg weakness, when a patient has difficulty walking he or she may need a wheelchair or other mobility device</li> </ul> </div> <h2 class="content_head" id="TOC_TITLE_HDR_7"><a name="Prevention"></a>How to Prevent Polio </h2> <div class="content_body" id="TOC_TITLE_7"> <p>The best way to prevent polio is to get vaccinated. Children should get polio shots according to the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/vac-faqs.htm">CDC vaccination schedule</a>, shown below. </p> <p>Rarely, the shots can cause mild or severe allergic reactions, including:</p> <ul> <li>breathing problems</li> <li>high fever</li> <li>dizziness</li> <li>hives</li> <li>swelling of throat</li> <li>rapid heart rate</li> </ul> <p>Adults in the United States are not at a high risk for contracting polio. The greatest risk is when traveling to an area where polio is still common. Make sure to get a series of shots before you travel. </p> <p><strong>Center for Disease Control Vaccination Schedule</strong></p> <table border="1" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> <tbody><tr> <td valign="top" width="139"><p><strong>Age</strong></p></td> <td valign="top" width="427"><p><strong> </strong></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top" width="139"><p>2 months</p></td> <td valign="top" width="427"><p>One dose</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top" width="139"><p>4 months</p></td> <td valign="top" width="427"><p>One dose</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top" width="139"><p>6 to 18 months</p></td> <td valign="top" width="427"><p>One dose</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top" width="139"><p>4 to 6 years</p></td> <td valign="top" width="427"><p>Booster dose</p></td> </tr> </tbody></table> </div></article> <div class="span12 box-share-help-feedback"> <div class="span5"> <div class="box-article-helpful"> <div class="box-helpful-question"> Was this article helpful? <span class="helpful-option-yes">Yes</span> <span class="helpful-option-no">No</span> </div> <div class="box-helpful-confirmation"></div> </div> </div> <div class="span3"> <div class="box-link-feedback"> <span class="icon-email"></span> <a class="link-feedback" href="#feedbackOverlay" id="feedbackLink" rel="#feedbackOverlay">Feedback?</a> </div> <div class="overlay-simple overlay-feedback" id="feedbackOverlay"> <div class="overlay-content"> <div class="box-form-feedback" id="feedbackformdiv"> <form action="/v2/widgetemail" id="feedbackform"> <input name="to" type="hidden" value="hrl"></input> <input id="urlfield" name="urlfield" type="hidden" value=""></input> <h2>Send us your feedback</h2> <p class="box-message">We are unable to respond directly to questions, but your feedback is greatly appreciated, and will be taken into account in our ongoing review of our Health Reference Library.<br/></p> <p> <label>Your Name:</label><br/> <input class="field-name" id="nametext" name="nametext" placeholder="Name Here" type="text"></input> <span class="box-msg-error" id="box-msg-name"><span class="icon-error">✖</span> <span id="errorMsgName">Please enter your name</span></span> </p> <p> <label>Your Email:</label><br/> <input class="field-email-address" id="feedbackemail" name="emailaddress" placeholder="name@example.com" type="email"></input> <span class="box-msg-error" id="box-msg-email"><span class="icon-error">✖</span> <span id="errorMsgEmail">Please enter your email</span></span> </p> <p> <input id="copy" name="copy" type="checkbox"></input> <label>Send me a copy</label> </p> <p class="box-textarea"> <textarea class="field-message" cols="60" id="feedbacktextarea" name="messagetext" rows="4"></textarea> </p> <div class="textarea-char-count" id="charcount">0</div> <p class="box-buttons"> <button class="btn-cancel" name="feedbackcancelbutton" type="button">Cancel</button> <button class="btn-send-msg">Send Message</button> <span class="box-loading"><img alt="" src="/resources/base/images/ajax-loader.gif"/></span> </p> </form> <p class="box-privacy"><span class="icon-lock"></span> Email addresses will not be shared with 3rd parties. See <a href="http://www.healthline.com/health/privacy-policy" target="_blank">privacy policy</a></p> </div> <div class="box-thankyou" id="thankyou"> <h2><span class="icon-green-checkmark"></span> Thank you.</h2> <p>Your message has been sent.</p> </div> <div class="box-submit-error" id="submissionerror"> <h2>We're sorry, an error occurred.</h2> <p>We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.</p> </div> </div><div class="overlay-footer"> <div class="overlay-close">Close</div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="row12 hl-article-references"> <div class="span8"> <div class="box-article-source "> <p class="references-title">Article Sources:</p> <div class="basesources"> <ul> <li>Polio. (2011, March 5). <em>Mayo Clinic.</em> Retrieved June 8, 2012, from <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/polio/DS00572">http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/polio/DS00572</a> </li> <li>Polio Disease In-Short. (n.d.). <em>Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</em>. Retrieved June 8, 2012, from <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/in-short-both.htm">http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/in-short-both.htm</a> </li> <li>Poliomyelitis. (2011, August 24). <em>PubMed Health</em>.Retrieved June 18, 2012, from <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002375/">http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002375/</a> </li> <li>Poliomyelitis Fact Sheet. (20112, February). <em>World Health Organization</em>. Retrieved June 8, 2012, from <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs114/en/">http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs114/en/</a> </li> </ul></div> <div class="morebox"> <div id="moresources" style="display:none"> <ul class="morelist"></ul> </div> <a href="#" id="showmoresources">Show all</a> </div> </div><!-- end of article source block --> </div><!-- article source span --> <div class="span4"> <div class="box-hrl-logo-src"> <div class="hrl-logo"></div> </div> </div><!-- hrl logo span --> </div><!-- row12 --> <div class="toc-content-promotion"> <!--hl-linking-ignore-start--> <div class="overlay-content-promotion"> <div class="content-promotion-header"> <div class="triangle"></div> <div class="content-promotion-title"> <p class="content-promotion-title-text">Recommended for You</p> </div> <div class="content-promotion-close"><a class="link-close-overlay-content-promotion" href="#"></a></div> </div> <div class="content-promotion-stories"> <!-- Fontest02: true --> <div class="content-promotion-story click-link" data="/health-slideshow/10-worst-disease-outbreaks"> <div class="content-promotion-title">10 Worst Outbreaks in U.S. History</div> <div class="content-promotion-image"> <a href="http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/10-worst-disease-outbreaks" title="10 Worst Outbreaks in U.S. History"><img alt="10 Worst Outbreaks in U.S. History" src="/hlcmsresource/images/slideshow/worst-outbreaks-in-history/110x90_worst-outbreaks-history.jpg"/></a> </div> <div class="content-promotion-text"> <div class="content-promotion-disclaimer">Learn about the 10 worst disease outbreaks and epidemics in U.S. history, including the smallpox epidemic, cholera outbreaks, yellow fever, Spanish flu and more.</div> <div class="content-promotion-link summary-action"> <a href="http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/10-worst-disease-outbreaks" title="10 Worst Outbreaks in U.S. History"> Read More <span> »</span></a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="content-promotion-story click-link" data="/health-slideshow/athletes-and-rare-disease"> <div class="content-promotion-title">Famous Athletes Who Battled Disease</div> <div class="content-promotion-image"> <a href="http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/athletes-and-rare-disease" title="Famous Athletes Who Battled Disease"><img alt="Famous Athletes Who Battled Disease" src="/hlcmsresource/images/slideshow/atheletes/110x90_atheletes-with-rare-diseases.jpg"/></a> </div> <div class="content-promotion-text"> <div class="content-promotion-disclaimer">Elite athletes are often thought of as warriors, seemingly invincible as they succeed in their sports. 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var breakpointsToHideAd = []; var breakpointsToHideAdByPageType = []; breakpointsToHideAd = ['997','768','600','480','320']; var isAdOnPageLoad = AppResponsiveAds.getShowAdOnPageLoad("MR2",breakpointsToHideAd,breakpointsToHideAdByPageType); var cfgDfpManager = { isAdOnPageLoad: isAdOnPageLoad, adshost : 'http://ads.healthline.com', dfpAdSite : 'hn.us.hl.lc.x.x.rfs', btk1 : '', btk2 : '', kw : 'polio,2791891', k1 : 'polio', k2 : 'infectious', k3 : 'health', pos : 'mr2', ugc : 'false', ac : '', uac : '', env : '', msiteID : '', adTagPageUrl : encodeURIComponent('/health/poliomyelitis'), yeildex : 'true' , targetsrc : 'www.google.com' }; AppDfpmanager.mr2IframeInit(cfgDfpManager); }); // dom ready }); </script> <script> require([ "base/article-toc" ], function( AppArticleToc ){ AppArticleToc.initialize({ isArticleHelpful: false }); }); var isMsiteId = false; require([ "base/rwd/article-toc" ], function( AppArticleTocRwd ){ AppArticleTocRwd.initialize({ isMsiteId: isMsiteId, adRBTimeDelay: 300 }); }); require([ "base/rwd/sharebar-mobile" ], function( AppSharebarMobile ){ AppSharebarMobile.initialize(); }); require( ['jquery', 'matchmedia'], function( $ ) { $(function() { if( matchMedia('only screen and (max-width: 599px)').matches ) { var contentSectionsLength = $('.content_head').length; //add sharethrough ad div where the ad will be populated via the sharethrough javascript included above //after first section $( '<div data-str-native-key="47d89e59" style="display: none;"></div>' ).insertAfter( $( '#TOC_TITLE_1' ) ); //after last section $( '<div data-str-native-key="f66f2fdd" style="display: none;"></div>' ).insertAfter( $( '#TOC_TITLE_' + contentSectionsLength ) ); // if sharethrough library loaded, then boot up if( typeof STR === 'object' ) { STR.Tag.boot(); } } // test if phone breakpoint }); // dom ready }); // require call </script> <script> require(['jquery',"base/dfpmanager","base/responsive-ads","matchmedia"],function($,AppDfpmanager,AppResponsiveAds){ $(function() { // determine if pb ad is shown on page load var isAdOnPageLoad = true; var breakpointsToHideAd = []; var breakpointsToHideAdByPageType = []; breakpointsToHideAd = ['600','480','320']; var isAdOnPageLoad = AppResponsiveAds.getShowAdOnPageLoad("PB",breakpointsToHideAd,breakpointsToHideAdByPageType); var cfgDfpManager = { isAdOnPageLoad: isAdOnPageLoad, adshost : 'http://ads.healthline.com', logged_in : 'false', dfpAdSite : 'hn.us.hl.lc.x.x.rfs', btk1 : '', btk2 : '', kw : 'polio,2791891', k1 : 'polio', k2 : 'infectious', k3 : 'health', pos : 'lb', ugc : 'false', ac : '', uac : '', akh : '', aks : '5000', env : '', msiteID : '', adTagPageUrl : encodeURIComponent('/health/poliomyelitis'), partner : 'healthline', pg_dart_site : 'hn.us.hl.lc.x.x.rfs', pg_dart_zone : 'polio', pg_k2 : 'infectious', pHLID : '2791891', HLID : '2791891', visit_type : 'HCviewer', yeildex : 'true', targetsrc : 'www.google.com' }; var pbtimeout = setTimeout(function() { AppDfpmanager.pbIframeInit(cfgDfpManager); }, 300); }); // dom ready }); </script> <script> var HL_adBlankMonitor = function(cfg) { if(cfg.adBlankCodes.length > 0) { for(var i = 0; i < cfg.adBlankCodes.length; i++) { if (typeof HL_ga_sendTrackEvent === 'function') { HL_ga_sendTrackEvent({ gaEventCategory : 'Ad Display', gaEventAction : 'Blank Ad', gaEventLabel : 'adBlankCode=' + cfg.adBlankCodes[i] + '&adspot=' + cfg.adPosition + '&pageUrl=' + window.location.pathname }); } } } }; </script> <script> require([ 'healthline/newsletter-signup' ], function( newsletterSignup ){ newsletterSignup.setConfig({ newsletterHost: 'newsletter.healthline.com' }); }); </script> <script> /* load module */ require(["healthline/footer"]); </script> </head></div>