Polio is a serious illness caused by a virus. It still affects many parts of the world. It is nearly eliminated in the United States. It can cause:
The polio virus can be spread by person to person contact. Anyone can develop this infection.
This disease affected thousands of children each year prior to 1950 when the polio vaccine was developed. The use of the vaccine has made polio rare in developed nations.
Most people who get the infection have no symptoms at all. But some people can develop the following:
Treatment aims to manage the symptoms of the disease.
The polio vaccine is made of inactivated polio virus. An oral vaccine containing live polio vaccine was used in the past. There was a small risk of getting polio from the oral vaccine. It is no longer recommended. Today's polio vaccine is given by injection into the arm or leg.
The polio vaccine is recommended for all children. The vaccine can be given to babies as young as 6 weeks. This is only done if the baby is at an increased risk of infection. The regular schedule for giving the vaccine is at ages 2, 4, 6-18 months, and at 4-6 years. If the child receives the fourth dose before age 4 years, then a fifth dose will be needed between 4-6 years.
Certain higher risk adults who did not receive the polio vaccine as children should talk with their doctors about whether they should get it. These include:
Most people have no problems with the polio vaccine. However, some experience soreness around the area where the shot was given. Like all vaccines, the polio vaccine carries a small risk of serious reaction, such as a severe allergic reaction.
Acetaminophen is sometimes given to help prevent pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. The medication may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness in infants. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with your doctor.
You should not get the polio vaccine if you:
Avoiding unsanitary conditions and practicing good personal hygiene can help prevent polio.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Model insert: oral polio vaccine for children. World Health Organization website. Available at: http://www.who.int/immunization_standards/vaccine_quality/insert_opv_2002.pdf. Updated September 2002. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Poliomyelitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116045/Poliomyelitis. Updated April 19, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Polio vaccination: who needs it? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/vacc-in-short.htm. Updated October 3, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Polio vaccine. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/kids/vaccines/polio-vaccine.html. Updated December 2010. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Polio VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/ipv.html. Updated November 8, 2011. Accessed December 1, 2014.
10/30/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116045/Poliomyelitis: Prymula R, Siegrist C, Chlibek R, et al. Effect of prophylactic paracetamol administration at time of vaccination on febrile reactions and antibody responses in children: two open-label, randomised controlled trials. Lancet. 2009;374(9698):1339.
11/9/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116045/Poliomyelitis: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) regarding routine poliovirus vaccination. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009;58(30):829-830.
Last reviewed November 2015 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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