Polio is an infectious disease that can be spread through person-to-person contact. It caused severe illness in thousands of people that came in contact with polio in the United States. Polio vaccine is given in four doses with the first being at 2 months old, second at 4 months, third at 6-18 months, and the booster shot should be given at 4-6 years old.


In 1789 Michale Underwood, a British physician was first to give a clinical a description of the disease. In 1916, it was announced that there was an epidemic of the disease in the United States. That year, there was over 27,000 cases of polio with over 6000 deaths reported. Dr. Jonas Salk and associates developed a vaccine in 1953 and it was a reported success by 1955. Later the polio vaccine was replaced by Albert Sabin live attenuated vaccine.


Most people that get polio will have no visible signs or symptoms.

About 1 in 4 people that get the polio infectious disease may have flu-like symptoms that include:

  • sore throat
  • fever
  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
These symptoms will last anywhere from 2 to 5 days and go away. Some more serious symptoms associated with polio are:

  • 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

Permanent disability or death is the most severe symptom associated with polio. Paralysis from poliovirus infection can lead to death because it affects the muscle that helps to breath in between 2 and 10 out of 100 people.



Polio is spread through person-to-person contact and is very contagious. It lives in the person's throat and intestines. It enters the body through the mouth and spread if there is contact with the infected person's feces. Though uncommon, but it can also spread through the contact from a sneeze or cough droplet.

An infected person can spread the virus before and about 1 to 2 weeks of symptoms appearing. The virus can live in the infected feces for many weeks and can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions.


Poliovirus in some cases can lead to paralysis, the loss of the ability to move, temporarily or permanently, disabilities or deformities in the hips, ankles, and feet 1 in 200 cases. It can also lead to death with it affects the muscle to help people breath. These deformities can be corrected with surgery and physical therapy, but these are not options available in many developing countries.




There are two types of vaccine that are offered for poliovirus:

Inactive poliovirus vaccine (IPV), which the only type being used in the United States.

  • Highly effective in producing immunity to poliovirus
  • After 2 doses, 90% or more immune
  • After 3 doses, at least 99% immune
  • It is still unknown how long immunity lasts for
  • Since the effective use of the vaccine, the US has been polio-free since 1979

Oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) which is mostly being used in developing countries.

  • Highly effective in producing immunity to poliovirus
  • After one dose approximately 50% immune
  • After 3 doses more than 95% immune
  • Immunity could last lifelong
  • In 2012, only 223 cases were reported worldwide and polio endemic were reported in only three countries.

Polio is projected to be eradicated worldwide within this decade if vaccination is delivered. Without vaccination, we may never know how serious the disease could have gotten. Luckily it was developed in time and delivered to stop the spread of the virus. Please vaccinate your children.