Risks at a glance:

  • 1 in every 200 infections causes permanent paralysis
  • 5% to 10% of those paralysed will die when their breathing muscles become paralysed

About the disease:
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It starts out as fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck, and pain in the limbs, then invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

How is it spread:
Polio is very contagious. It spreads through contact with the faeces (poo) of an infected person or droplets from a sneeze or cough. An infected person may spread the virus to others immediately before and usually 1 to 2 weeks after showing symptoms. The virus may live in an infected person’s faeces for many weeks, and they can contaminate food and water when they touch it with unwashed hands.

There is no cure for polio, treatment to manage the consequences of severe muscle weakness may include admission to intensive care to help with breathing, and physiotherapy or medicines to reduce muscle spasms.

Impact of polio:
Since 1988, when there was around 350, 000 cases, the worldwide effort to end polio has reduced that number to only 22 reported cases in 2017.

Four doses of the polio vaccine given in childhood can protect a child for life.

Real life stories:
Jeanette talks about getting polio at age 16 here.
Don talks about his experience with polio, and life after polio here.
Doris shares her story of living with polio here.