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What is polio?

Polio, also known as poliomyelitis is a very serious, contagious condition. Polio can affect both adults and children but thankfully, as a result of successful vaccines, polio is becoming very rare in most countries. The Americas, U.K. and most of Europe are free of polio as a disease but with people taking more exotic holidays, vaccine is still important.

What causes polio?

Polio is caused by any one of 3 polio viruses, known as types 1, 2 and 3. Polio is spread by contact with infected faeces or in fine droplets of moisture, which contain the virus. The droplets are produced when the infected person coughs or sneezes, another person then inhales these droplets and may become infected.

What are the symptoms of polio?

The majority of people infected with polio will not have any symptoms. Polio’ s symptoms if present range from flu like symptoms – fever, sore throat, headache and vomiting to muscle pain, fatigue and stiffness of the back and neck.

In severe cases polio can cause meningitis and paralysis of the muscles, this happens as a result of the virus attacking the central nervous system, the spinal cord and the brain.

What are the effects of polio?

If you get severe polio known as paralytic polio, it can cause paralysis in the legs or other parts of the body and even death.

How is polio treated?

Polio is a virus and there is no cure. However, there is treatment available to control and relieve the symptoms of polio. In cases of muscle weakness the patient may benefit from physiotherapy.

How do I avoid getting polio?

There is a very successful vaccine for polio and you must ensure your child has the vaccine. The polio vaccine is usually given to babies at 2,3 and 4 months. The 1st booster is given when your child is between the ages of 3 and 5 years. The 2nd booster is given when your child is between the ages of 13 and 19. Unlike other immunizations the polio vaccine is given by mouth, in the form of a liquid.

If you are travelling to a country where polio is still common (e.g. parts of Africa), a booster vaccine may be needed. Check with your doctor that you did have the polio vaccine when you were younger.