Poliomyelitis (Polio)

By Cady Suddeth

Brief History & Basic Information

In the late 1940's to the early 1950's polio crippled more than 35,000 people in the United States each year. Even our very own Franklin Delano Roosevelt had polio. The virus still spreads in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Polio is a highly infectious virus that affects the nervous system and is spread from person to person.


95% of people infected don't show symptoms. 4-8% show minor symptoms like fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, flu-like symptoms, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in limbs which often resolve completely. Fewer than 1% of polio cases result in permanent paralysis of the limbs. Of those paralyzed 5-10% die when the paralysis strikes the respiratory muscles. The death rate increases with age.


Unfortunately there isn't a cure for polio. There are vaccines that can help prevent polio, they are inactive polio vaccine (IPV) and oral polio vaccine (OPV). IPV has been used in the U.S. since 2000; however OPV is still used around the world.