What is Polio? Know its symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention

Polio can be a deadly disease that is a real threat to mankind. Furthermore, this disease is highly contagious. Children under five years of age are most at risk of suffering from this condition. 

Is polio a viral disease? Does it cause death? What are the symptoms of polio disease? Many questions often come to our mind. Read the blog to know about the symptoms of polio, causes of polio, its types and prevention measures.

What is Polio ?

Polio is also called poliomyelitis. This is a serious infectious disease. Which is caused by polio virus infection. This infection spreads from one person to another. This infection can damage the spinal bones and brain of a person. Due to which, the person becomes paralyzed, some parts of the body are not able to function properly. Polio Virus is a member of the enterovirus family.

Experts on this disease say that, children under 5 years of age are more likely to be exposed to this virus than other groups. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in every 200 people affected by polio develops paralysis.

What are the types of polio ?

Polio is classified into three categories –

Abortive poliomyelitis – This type of polio does not show any symptoms because it does not affect the central nervous system, brain and spinal cord. It is the mildest form of polio. After this type of polio infection, a person may experience mild symptoms and recover completely within 72 hours.

Non-paralytic – This type of polio affects the central nervous system but does not result in paralysis. In this category, the victim experiences more symptoms than paralytic poliomyelitis but does not cause paralysis. In this case, the meninges become infected. They are nothing more than a membrane covering the spine and brain. Symptoms usually last for 10 days.

Paralytic – This is the most severe form of polio that leads to permanent paralysis of certain muscle groups, including the leg and breathing muscles. In this severe condition, the virus spreads from the gut to the brain and spinal cord causing permanent damage to the nerves that control muscle movement. There are also three forms of paralytic polio:

  • Spinal polio – as the title suggests, it affects the spinal cord.
  • Bulbar polio- It affects the brain.
  • Bulbospinal polio – It affects both the spinal cord and the brain.

What are the symptoms of polio ?

Poliomyelitis, also known as polio, is a deadly and contagious viral infection that affects infants, causing infant paralysis. It is accompanied by a number of symptoms and can sometimes occur with or without symptoms.

Symptoms of polio depend on the type of polio. Some people are non-paralytic. In which there is mild flu and it is visible only for 10 days.

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Tiredness.
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting.
  • Sore throat.
  • Pain in the neck.
  • Weakness in muscles.
  • Meningitis.
  • Pain or cramps in the arms or legs.
  • Back pain.

Paralytic polio symptoms –

  • Loss of alertness. 
  • Severe cramps and muscle pain .
  • Loose and flabby limbs (sometimes on one side of the body).
  • Sudden paralysis (temporary or permanent).
  • Deformed limbs (especially hips, ankles and feet).

Post polio syndrome –

Post-polio syndrome is a group of disabling signs and symptoms that affect some people years after having polio. Common signs and symptoms include the following:-

  • Progressive muscle or joint weakness and pain
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle wasting (atrophy)
  • problems breathing or swallowing
  • sleep-related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea
  • reduced tolerance to cold temperatures

How does polio spread ? – How is polio spread ?

  • Not washing hands properly after going to the toilet.
  • Drinking dirty water or cooking in it
  • Coming into contact with the spit, saliva, or feces of an infected person
  • Swimming in dirty water
  • Eating dirty food
  • You have had your tonsils removed through surgery.

Risk Factors of Polio

Apart from the cause of polio, there are some risk factors which can lead to the occurrence of this disease, such as

  • Not getting polio vaccine
  • Visiting a polio-infected area
  • Children and infants living in unhygienic environment

What is the mode of transmission of polio ?

Once the polio virus enters a person, it starts infecting the cells of the intestine and throat. The virus remains in the intestines before spreading to other parts of the body. Ultimately, the virus enters the bloodstream where the entire body is affected.

This highly contagious disease takes 10-21 days between infection and onset of paralysis. Polio transmission is mainly fecal-oral, meaning the polio virus is spread through the intestines and anus. The virus begins to erupt within a month or so of infection. Virus spread is exponential and infection is widespread at the onset of paralysis.

When sanitation is poor, polio virus transmission is more likely. Poliovirus can survive in stool for up to six weeks and can be transmitted to unvaccinated individuals. Parents should handle babies with clean hands and change nappies regularly to protect babies from poliovirus.

How is Polio diagnosed ?

Polio is diagnosed by a health care specialist, who does a physical examination, tests body fluids, and asks you about your symptoms. It is important to inform your provider if you have recently traveled.

Your provider may test body fluids to look for signs of polio or other infections, including:

  • Spit (saliva) from your throat.
  • Stool
  • Blood
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid around your brain and spinal cord)
  • While polio symptoms are flu-like, your specialist may do other tests to rule out more common conditions

Physical examination:In this your entire body is examined. The function of the muscles involved in respiration is examined because polioviruses that affect the spinal cord and brain stem and it also can affect the respiratory muscles.

Muscle reactions are tested. There may be cramps in the muscles of the neck and back. While lying on the back, there may be difficulty in lifting the head or legs and bending the neck.

Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) – Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) is defined as sudden onset of muscle softening. Your doctor can tell by examining it whether you have polio or not.   

Laboratory Diagnosis – Laboratory diagnosis involves routine blood tests. It is also checked whether there is any increase in white blood cells or not.

Cerebrospinal fluid examination – Cerebro Spinal fluid is present in the spinal cord and brain. CSF is examined by lumbar puncture. In this, a long thin needle is inserted inside the vertebra. A small amount of CSF is removed through the needle and sent to the laboratory for diagnosis.  

Throat secretion test – Throat secretion is taken out and sent to the laboratory to be tested for polio virus. This process is done in culture media. If polio virus is confirmed, it is also examined under a microscope. After that the stool samples are also examined. Diagnosis can also be made by isolating the virus from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), but this is often not possible.

Fingerprinting of polio virus – After isolating the polio virus, Oligonucleotide mapping (fingerprinting) or genomic sequencing is done. This is done by taking the genetic sequence of the virus and determining whether the virus is of “wild type” or “vaccine-like” origin.

The wild type virus occurs naturally in the environment and can occur as 3 subtypes – P1, P2 and P3. Vaccine-like viruses are caused by mutations in the virus present in the polio vaccine.

Outcomes of poliovirus infection in children

                       Outcome                                                                 Proportion of cases                        
No symptoms                                                72%
Minor illness 24%
Nonparalytic aseptic
Paralytic poliomyelitis 0.1–0.5%
Spinal polio 79% of paralytic cases
Bulbospinal polio 19% of paralytic cases
Bulbar polio 2% of paralytic cases

What is the treatment for polio ? – Polio Treatment 

  • The first is done by giving polio drops to children below 5 years of age.
  • Secondly, polio treatment is given through injection to cure the person suffering from polio.
  • Drinking fluids (like water and juice).
  • Use hot packs to relieve muscle pain.
  • To get relief from the pain caused by polio, your doctor may advise you to take some painkillers.
  • To do physical therapy. • Following the diet and exercise recommended by your specialist
  • Complete rest is very important for the recovery of polio.
  • Some people may have difficulty breathing, portable ventilators are used to help them breathe.
  • It is very important to consume nutritious food in polio.
  • Exercise and physiotherapy are used to reduce muscle and respiratory problems .
  • In advanced cases of leg weakness, you may need a wheelchair or other mobility device.
  • There is a high risk of urinary tract infection in polio, so your doctor may ask you to take some antibiotics to prevent it.

How to prevent polio? – Tips for Polio prevention  

Vaccines are an essential measure for the prevention of polio. However, other strategies to reduce the spread of this potentially deadly disease include:

  • Avoiding food or drinks, that could contaminate a person with poliovirus.
  • Get yourself vaccinated from time to time by a medical staff. Make sure that, you have been given a booster dose.
  • To protect against polio, small children should be vaccinated at the right time.
  • Children are given four doses. In this, a polio booster is given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years.
  • When soap is unavailable, wash your hands frequently with hand sanitizer.
  • Make sure you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with clean hands when you sneeze or cough.
  • Avoid intimate contact with vulnerable people, such as hugging and sharing utensils.

Polio Vaccin

There is no cure for polio, but there are vaccines to prevent the disease. These are of two types – one taken by mouth i.e. Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and the other inactivated polio vaccine i.e. Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV).

Oral polio vaccine is given by mouth as a liquid and it is important for international eradication because, it protects the person and stops the virus from spreading. OPV uses live but weakened forms of the polio virus that are modified in such a way that they cannot cause disease in the person receiving the vaccine.

Inactivated polio vaccine is given as an injection and is very effective in protecting the person who is given it from serious disease. Because it is inactive. It cannot cause vaccine-borne poliovirus. However, unlike OPV, it does not stop the spread of the virus if the person is already infected.

OPV is cheaper than IPV and does not need to be administered by a health professional. Due to the threat of vaccine-borne poliovirus, more and more countries are using IPV.

Polio vaccination schedule

Need to inject 4 polio vaccines for children:

  • The first injection should be given to the child at the age of 2 months.
  • At 4 months of age, the baby should get a second shot.
  • The third dose is between 6 and 18 months of age.
  • Booster dose between 4 to 6 years of age.

If you or someone in your family was not vaccinated against polio as a child, you can still be vaccinated as an adult, in which case you will receive 3 dose vaccinations:

  • Two doses should be taken at an interval of one to two months.
  • The third dose is six to twelve months after the first dose.

Polio free Country List

The following areas in the world are now certified as polio free by WHO:

  • America (USA)
  • Europe
  • Western Pacific and
  • Southeast Asia 

Is Polio Virus Contagious ? – Is Polio Contagious ?

Poliovirus is very contagious and a person can transmit (spread) it even if they are not sick. This virus can spread from one person to another in two ways.

People who have polio virus in their body release the virus through their stool (poop). The virus can spread to other people by swallowing contaminated water or food. This risk is likely to be higher in areas with poor sanitation or weak access to clean water.

A person can also pick up the virus after sneezing or coughing. If you get droplets of phlegm or mucus from an infected person in your mouth or nose, you can become infected.

Are polio vaccines safe ? 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers polio vaccine to be very safe. The CDC tracks vaccine safety and problems.

Any vaccine can be: 

  • Allergic reaction.

  • Pain that lasts for a while (in rare cases).

  • Redness where the needle enters the skin.

  • Pain in the area where you got the shot.

If you don’t feel well after a shot or have an allergic reaction, tell your healthcare provider. Also talk with your healthcare provider, before taking future doses. 

What complications can occur due to polio ?

If someone gets infected with polio virus, he may have to face the following complications: – 

  • Permanent or temporary paralysis 

  • Disability

  • Death 

  • Bone deformities

Global Polio Virus Eradication Efforts

The global effort to eradicate polio starts in 1988, when the World Health Council launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). This collaborative effort involves many organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Rotary International. These organizations work together to vaccinate children, strengthen surveillance, and improve sanitation and hygiene. Because of these combined efforts, the number of polio cases has decreased by more than 99%.

What is the history of World Polio Day ?

World Polio Day is celebrated every year on 23 October. World Polio Day was started by Rotary International. This day is celebrated on the occasion of the birthday of Jonas Salk. Jonas Salk led the first team to discover a polio vaccine. In 1988, the World Health Assembly launched a mission to eliminate polio from all countries of the world. Through this mission, emphasis was laid on giving vaccine to all children to protect them from this terrible disease. World Polio Day is part of this initiative.

What is its Importance ?

Polio is a terrible disease, which if infected can even lead to paralysis . This mostly happens to children below 5 years of age, hence it is very important to give all the vaccines to children on time. On this day, parents who get their children vaccinated on time and all health care workers are appreciated. 

Last Word

Polio is a viral disease that can be dangerous, but fortunately, it can be prevented through antibodies. Therefore, to ensure a safe and healthy life, you must get yourself and your child vaccinated.

Vaccination has eliminated polio in many parts of the world, but we are still working to eliminate it completely. As long as polio exists in any part of the world, it can come back and cause serious disease in people who are not protected by vaccination. The best way to protect yourself and your community is to get vaccinated.


Question – Is polio a virus ?
Ans – Yes. Polio is a Virus. Polio Virus is a member of the enterovirus family.

Question – What should be done if a child vomits after taking polio vaccine ?
Answer – The child should be given polio vaccine again.

Question – Does polio virus always cause paralysis ?
Answer – No, less than one percent of children infected with poliovirus develop paralysis.

Question – Why does polio occur mostly in children ?
Answer – There is no immunity against polio virus in children, that’s why it occurs in children.

Question – Who invented the polio vaccine ?
Answer –
In 1950, the first successful vaccine was created by American physician Jonas Salk. Salk tested this vaccine on himself and his family in 1953.

Question – When was the polio vaccine invented ?

Answer – First successful vaccine was invented in 1950. But it’s announced on April 12, 1955.

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Hello Friends, I am James harden, the founder of this site. This blog provides accurate and precise information on Technology, Banking, Insurance, Tips & Tricks, Online Earning, Computer troubleshooting and much more.

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