Polio – Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors and Prevention

Polio is also known poliomyelitis is caused by poliovirus which can be deadly. People of any age can get polio but Children younger than 5 are more likely than any other group to contract the virus. It can spread easily from person to person. One in three hundred polio infections will result in permanent paralysis according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Polio can strike your spinal cord and brain in its serious form and cause paralysis.


Although polio can cause paralysis and death, most people infected with the virus don’t get sick and don’t know they’ve been infected.

Non-paralytic polio symptoms

Nonparalytic polio signs and symptoms can last from 1 to 10 days. Non-paralytic polio is also known as abortive polio. These symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Back and neck pain
  • Arm and leg stiffness
  • Muscle tenderness and spasms
  • Meningitis, membrane infection across the brain
  • Paralytic polio symptoms

This severe form of the disease is not common. Initial symptoms of paralytic polio, like fever and headache, mostly copy those of nonparalytic polio. However, further signs and symptoms appear within a week, including:

  • A loss of reflexes
    • Severe muscle pain or weakness
    • Floppy limbs
    • A feeling of pins and needles in your legs
    • Paralyzed arms, legs, or both

When to seek medical help

Talk to your doctor for polio vaccination before travelling to a part of the world where polio still happens naturally like as Central and South America, Africa and Asia.

Additionally, call your doctor if:

  • From polio vaccine your child has an allergic reaction.
    • The child has other issues than slight redness or vaccine injection site soreness
    • Months ago you had polio and now you have unexplained fatigue and weakness
    • If you have not completed the vaccine dosage.

What causes polio?

Polio is caused by poliovirus. The virus enters the body through the mouth. t is transmitted by contact with an infected person’s faeces (stool), or by exposure to phlegm or mucus when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Polio can also be spread by touching items which are contaminated with faecal matter containing the virus and then putting your hands in your mouth. Poor hygiene or unsanitary conditions leading to contamination of food or water supplies with the virus have also been linked to polio outbreaks.

A person who is infected with the virus can remain contagious for 1 or 2 weeks after symptoms first appear. An infected person can carry the virus and infect others even if he or she does not appear to be sick.

Home Remedies

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
    • Limit activities that cause pain
    • Stay warm
    • Avoid falls
    • Avoid smoking
    • Protect your lungs

Risk factors for polio

You are most at risk of infection with the poliovirus if you haven’t been immunized against polio. People most at risk of infection include:

  • Pregnant women
  • The elderly
  • The very young
  • Individuals, who have a weak immune system, like those with hiv.

This is especially the case in parts of the world where sanitation is poor and immunization programs are not widespread.

Factors that can increase your risk include:

  • Travelling to an area where polio is common or where an outbreak has recently occurred
  • Living with those people who are recently infected with polio
  • Not immunized and having contact with someone who has recently immunized an oral polio vaccine.

What are the complications of polio?

The complications of polio can vary.

  • Most people recover without complications
  • Some people may develop muscle weakness
  • Many people will get permanent paralysis of the muscle


Vaccines are the main way to prevent polio.

However, there are some ways to prevent polio:

  • Avoiding food or beverages that may have been contaminated by a person with poliovirus
  • Checking with a medical professional that your vaccinations are current
  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Using hand sanitizer when soap is not available
  • Covering the mouth while sneezing or coughing
  • While touching the eyes, nose, or mouth your hands should be clean
  • People who are sick, avoid to close contact with them and also do not share utensils with them
  • Make sure to get the required doses of the vaccine booster

Be sure to receive a vaccination before travelling to an area that is prone to polio breakouts.

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