Poliomyelitis is a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form can cause paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.
The virus is spread by direct person-to-person contact, contact with infected mucus, and contact with infect faeces. After infection, it can take between five and 35 days to develop symptoms.
Some people infected by the polio virus do not experience symptoms. Those who do can suffer headaches, fever, a sore throat and vomiting.
More severe cases of polio affect the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Symptoms can include muscle stiffness, back pain, fatigue, and paralysis.
Is polio preventable?
Yes. Between 1840 and the 1950s, polio was a worldwide epidemic.
An effective vaccine has had a major impact but, despite a concerted global eradication campaign, wild poliovirus continues to affect children and adults in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
In January 2012, India reported good progress in containing the spread of polio. However, a country must record no new cases of the disease for three years before the World Health Organisation will declare it ‘polio free’.
The European region has been working to eliminate polio but suffered a setback in 2010 when outbreaks were reported in several central Asian countries.
Adults planning to travel to an area where polio is occurring should speak to their doctor about whether they should consider having a booster dose of inactivated poliovirus. Immunity following a booster dose lasts a lifetime.