What is Polio and How Does it Spread?
Polio is a disease caused by the poliovirus that only infects people. The disease can be disabling and life-threatening. A person becomes infected when the virus enters through the mouth and lives in the throat and intestines.
The virus can survive for a long time. It can live in an infected person’s body for many weeks. It can be spread by an infected person right before they have symptoms through two weeks after the symptoms started. An infected person who never had symptoms can still spread the virus to others. Contact with the stool (poop) or respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough of an infected person can spread poliovirus. Poliovirus can also be spread through the stool (poop) of an infected person to food and water in unsanitary conditions. People who then eat or drink the contaminated food or water can become infected.
People at Highest Risk for Polio Infection
Children under two years old who have not yet received all four doses of the polio vaccine
Anyone who has not had a full series of vaccine (four doses)
People who are immunocompromised
While polio is very easy to spread, the polio vaccine is highly effective at preventing infection, illness and severe outcomes of the disease.
Learn more about polio vaccinations (CDC)
What Are the Symptoms of Polio?
Most people infected with poliovirus do not have any symptoms but can still spread the virus to others.
About 1 in 4 people will experience “flu-like” symptoms that usually last two to five days. Symptoms can take up to 30 days to appear after infection and might include:
A very small number of those with polio have severe symptoms and outcomes, including:
Meningitis (swelling of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord)
Severe muscle pains
Stiffness in the neck and back
Paralysis (loss of movement when something goes wrong with the way messages pass between your brain and muscles)
Learn more at CDC
How is Polio Treated?
There is no cure for paralytic polio and no specific treatment.
If you are concerned that you or someone in your household has symptoms of polio, do not wait to call your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider, call 2-1-1 to be connected to care or contact the nearest federally qualified health center or one of Vermont's free & referral clinics.
Information for Health Care Providers