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Poliomyelitis (polio)

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Disease Details

Incubation Period:

  • 7-14 days

Transmission Type(s):

Disease Reservoirs

Disease Agents

About Poliomyelitis (polio)

 President Roosevelt in his wheelchair on the porch at Top Cottage in Hyde Park, NY with Ruthie Bie and Fala. February 1941. This photograph was taken by his friend, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley. Ruthie Bie (later Bautista), then three years old, was the daughter of the property caretakers. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum photograph by Margaret Suckley (73-113 61) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines. Therefore, the strategy to eradicate polio is based on preventing infection by immunizing every child to stop transmission and ultimately make the world polio free.

In 1988, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. It marked the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), spearheaded by national governments, CDC, Rotary International, WHO, and UNICEF, with substantial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Most people who get infected with poliovirus (about 72 out of 100) will not have any visible symptoms.

About 1 out of 4 people with poliovirus infection will have flu-like symptoms that may include—

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain

These symptoms usually last 2 to 5 days then go away on their own.

A smaller proportion of people with poliovirus infection will develop other more serious symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord:

  • Paresthesia (feeling of pins and needles in the legs)
  • Meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain) occurs in about 1 out of 25 people with poliovirus infection
  • Paralysis (can’t move parts of the body) or weakness in the arms, legs, or both, occurs in about 1 out of 200 people with poliovirus infection

Paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with polio because it can lead to permanent disability and death. Between 2 and 10 out of 100 people who have paralysis from poliovirus infection die because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe.

Even children who seem to fully recover can develop new muscle pain, weakness, or paralysis as adults, 15 to 40 years later. This is called post-polio syndrome.

Note that “poliomyelitis” (or “polio” for short) is defined as the paralytic disease. So only people with the paralytic infection are considered to have the disease.

Poliomyelitis (polio) Prevention

Polio vaccine provides the best protection against polio, or poliomyelitis, a crippling and potentially deadly disease. Almost all children (99 out of 100) who get all the recommended doses of polio vaccine will be protected from polio. Getting the recommended doses of the polio vaccine is an extremely important part of keeping the United States polio-free.

Read More

Read more about Poliomyelitis (polio) at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Website