Understanding the Polio vaccine

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What is Polio?

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a contagious disease that can be prevented by vaccination. It is caused by poliovirus type 1, 2 or 3.

It is spread from person to person and through contaminated food and water. Polio can attack the central nervous system and destroy the nerve cells that activate muscles, which may cause paralysis and death. It mainly affects children under age five; however, infection and paralysis may occur in individuals of any age who are not immune.

What is my risk?    

There may be a risk for travellers going to countries where polio has not been eliminated (endemic) or where cases have occurred recently. The risk depends on living conditions, length of stay and exposure to contaminated food and water. 

Speak with one of our Travel Health Specialists to understand the risk of polio for your trip.

How is it transmitted? 

Polio is spread mainly through fecal-oral transmission. For example, by eating food or drinking water contaminated through poor personal hygiene, poor sanitation, or poor control of sewage. 

It can also be spread through close personal contact with secretions (fluids) from an infected person’s nose and throat, for example, when they sneeze or cough.     

What are the symptoms?

Most people have no symptoms when they are infected. Symptoms can take three to 35 days to appear.

Some people develop mild symptoms including fever, fatigue, sore throat, stiffness in the neck, muscle aches and pains, headache, nausea and vomiting.

In more severe cases, the disease affects the spinal cord or brain, causing paralysis, and sometimes death.

Can polio be treated?

There is no cure for polio, only treatment to help alleviate the symptoms.

Where is polio a concern?

Polio is a concern in areas where it has not been eliminated or where affected by polio outbreaks. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Speak with one of our Travel Health Specialists preferably six weeks before you travel.

Get vaccinated. Discuss the polio vaccine with one of our Travel Health Specialists. 

Practise safe food and water precautions. More information about food and water safety is available from the CDC.