Polio is a contagious disease caused by a virus that can lead to nerve damage and paralysis in the most severe cases.
Polio is caused by the polio virus, which lives in an infected person’s throat or intestines. The disease can be mild – causing no symptoms – or it can be severe – leading to permanent paralysis.
Polio is highly contagious and can be spread through bodily fluids. Children diagnosed with polio may experience post-polio syndrome later in life. Because of the polio vaccine, the disease has been eradicated in the United States, and it’s important for adults or children traveling out of the country
The two types of polio are:
- Nonparalytic – causes flu-like symptoms that last up to 10 days
- Paralytic – occurs in about 1 percent of polio cases and is classified as:
- Bulbar – affects the brainstem, which can impair breathing, swallowing and other vital functions
- Bulbospinal – affects both the brainstem and spinal cord
- Spinal – affects the spinal cord and paralyzes the legs
The poliovirus causes polio. The virus lives in an infected person’s throat or intestines. It can be passed on through droplets from sneezing or coughing. It can also be spread through the infected person’s feces.
The virus can live in an infected person for several weeks. Once someone is infected, they may show symptoms in one to two weeks.
Some children will show no signs of the disease. But one in four will show these flu-like symptoms:
These symptoms can last up to 10 days.
For those with paralytic polio, the virus begins to attack the nervous system and can cause:
Children infected with polio can develop post-polio syndrome as adults with these symptoms:
- Fatigue (mental and physical)
- Joint pain
- Muscle weakness