What Is Polio?
Polio (poliomyelitis) is a potentially deadly, life-altering disease. The virus enters the body and attacks the brain and spinal cord, often causing paralysis.
More than 70 percent of infected individuals show no symptoms. About 25 percent will have mild flu-like symptoms. Less than four percent of patients will have severe symptoms like meningitis or paralysis.
Polio paralysis can lead to permanent disability or death. In some cases, muscle pain, weakness or paralysis does not come until later in life.
The best form of protection against polio is through vaccination.
|Typical Symptoms||Serious Symptoms|
|Sore Throat|| Paresthesia (feeling of pins
and needles in legs)
|Nausea or Stomach Pain||Brain or Spinal Issues|
|Headache||Permanent Disability or Death|
Source: Centers for Disease Control
How Does Polio Spread?
Polio only affects humans and is spread through person-to-person contact. The most common vector is contaminated food or water, though sneezes or coughs can transmit the virus.
Infected people are contagious immediately before and up to 14 days after symptoms are gone. The virus can live in an infected person’s fecal matter for many weeks. This allows the virus to spread easily in areas with poor sanitary conditions.
Travelers should take extra precautions in regions with polio. Make sure you have been vaccinated and wash your hands or use sanitizers regularly.
What Is the Polio Vaccination?
The polio vaccination protects individuals from the polovirus. It is almost 100 percent effective in stopping the spread of the disease.
There are two variants in circulation, injectable and oral. Oral vaccination is used throughout most of the developing world. The United States uses injectable polio vaccine to prevent any accidental outbreaks.
Who Needs a Polio Vaccine?
The CDC recommends all children receive the polio vaccine. They should receive one dose at: two months, four months, six to 18 months and four to six-years-old. An accelerated schedule is available, if necessary.
The majority of adults do not need a polio immunization, as they were likely vaccinated as children. But, the CDC recommends some key groups consider receiving a polio booster:
- Travelers to areas where polio is present
- Works who may handle specimens of poliovirus
- Healthcare workers who may come in contact with infected persons
Consult a Passport Health travel specialist about your specific itinerary to see if polio vaccination is right for you.
Where Is Polio Found?
Polio eradication is an ongoing effort across the globe. In 2017, there were less than 120 cases worldwide. But, many of these cases were in specific countries still fighting the disease.
Make sure you are properly vaccinated against polio before traveling to these countries:
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative provides weekly updates global cases.