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What is Polio?


Poliomyelitis is highly infectious and affects the nervous system, sometimes resulting in paralysis. It's transmitted through contaminated food, drinking water, faeces and swimming pool water.

Symptoms of Polio

n most cases (90%), polio may cause no symptoms and no sequalae.

5% of cases are termed 'abortive polio' three to 21 days after infection a slight fever and sore throat may develop. There may be vomiting, headache and abdominal pain. The illness only last 2-3 days.

In about 1% of cases, the signs of abortive polio are present but the headache, nausea and vomiting are much worse. There may also be stiffness of the neck, trunk and limb muscles. This is called nonparalytic polio.

Paralytic polio occurs in about 0.1% of cases. Paralytic polio is very variable. It commonly affects just one limb, a leg or an arm. However, it may affect groups of muscles and may affect breathing, eating, bladder and bowel function. Paralysis may improve over six months but some people are left with long term disabilities. The more severe the disease (for example with breathing difficulties) the more likely someone is to die from it.


Polio mainly affects people who haven't been immunised. Most parts of the world are now polio-free following successful immunisation programmes.

In the UK, routine immunisation is offered to babies and booster doses are given to children before they start school and after they leave. Travellers to countries that still have a risk of polio may need additional boosters.

Vaccination is the only effective method of preventing polio.




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Web Address


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British Polio

Web Address


Contact Details

0800 018 0586










There's no specific treatment for polio infection.
Symptomatic therapy with painkillers, for example, is usually all that's necessary when infection is mild.

If the infection is severe then admission to hospital may be needed, particularly if respiration is affected.

Those with paralysis can be helped to regain function in the affected limb or limbs with physiotherapy.


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