Vaccinate Your Baby

Polio

Click on the photo above to open the Polio page from the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook!

The Disease

Polio is a potentially deadly and crippling infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. Polio infects the brain and spinal cord, and is spread by person-to-person contact.

Almost 75% of people who are infected with polio show no symptoms; however, those people can still spread the virus and cause others to get polio. About 4-8% of people who are infected with poliovirus show minor symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat, upset stomach, and tiredness; and about 1-5% of people might have stiffness of the neck and back with a severe headache and pain in their legs and arms. These symptoms typically only last a few days, and then the person recovers. Approximately, 1 out of 100 people with polio will become permanently paralyzed. A small percentage of children, and a slightly larger percentage of adults, who become paralyzed may die because they are unable to breathe.

The Statistics

Polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century with annual epidemics, primarily during the summer months. Before polio vaccines were available, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year in the U.S. Because polio can paralyze the diaphragm, in the 1940s and 1950s, entire wards of hospitals housed polio victims who were dependent on large iron lungs that breathed for them.

Thanks to the discovery of the vaccine, polio has been eradicated from the United States and the entire Western Hemisphere. However, we continue to vaccinate against polio because the disease still exists in some countries and could easily be transported by an infected person back into the United States.

The Vaccine

Inactive Polio Vaccine (IPV) protects children in the U.S. against polio and children need four doses of the vaccine for the best protection. The first dose is given at 2 months, the second dose at 4 months, the third dose is given between 6 -18 months of age and the fourth dose is given between 4- 6 years old.

Most adults do not need polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children. However, some adults are at higher risk of polio (see list below) and should consider getting the polio vaccine if they were never vaccinated against polio or if they didn't receive all of the recommended doses. Adults who are at increased risk of exposure to polio and who have previously completed a routine series of polio vaccine can receive one lifetime booster dose of IPV.

  • You are traveling to polio-endemic or high-risk areas of the world.
  • You are working in a laboratory and handling specimens that might contain polioviruses.
  • You are a healthcare worker treating patients who could have polio or have close contact with a person who could be infected with poliovirus.

Additional Resources

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