Polio is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system. Poliovirus spreads through contact with the stool (feces) of an infected person or droplets from a sneeze or cough.
Most individuals infected with the virus will not experience any symptoms at all; some individuals will experience minor symptoms such as fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, flu-like symptoms, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the limbs which often resolves completely. In some people, the polio virus can result in paralysis (usually the legs), which can lead to permanent disability and death, in most cases by paralyzing the muscles that help them breathe.
Since widespread use of the vaccine in the US, which began in the 1950s, polio has been eliminated in the US. However, the virus continues to circulate in different parts of the world, so it’s important to make sure that those individuals who did not get the vaccine as a young child get it now.
Anyone who did not receive a complete vaccine series (three doses at 2, 4, and 6-18 months, one dose at 4-6 years) as a child should complete the series as soon as possible.