What is polio?
Polio is an infection caused by a virus. Polio is very rare in Canada today because almost everyone has been vaccinated against it. However there is still a risk of infection in people who are not immunized or are inadequately immunized (for example, not having their vaccinations up-to-date).
Polio is a reportable disease in Ontario.
What are the symptoms of polio?
Most people who are infected will not have any symptoms. However, symptoms can include:
- aching muscles
- loss of appetite
- stiff neck or back
A small number of people may develop more serious symptoms that can affect the brain and spinal cord. Paralysis (not being able to move parts of the body) or weakness in the arms, legs or both, occurs in about 1 out of 200 people with poliovirus infection.
It can take from 7 to 14 days for a person to start to show symptoms after being infected.
You should see a health care provider if the illness seems to be causing serious symptoms.
How is polio spread?
The poliovirus is found in a person’s throat and intestines. It enters the body through the mouth and is spread by unwashed hands that have had contact with the feces of an infected person. Less commonly it is spread through droplets from a cough or sneeze. It can contaminate food and water in unclean environments.
People with poliovirus who don’t have symptoms can still pass the virus to others and make them sick.
How is polio treated?
There is no cure for polio. However, during a polio infection, the symptoms are treated (for example, bed rest and fluids). The person can also receive treatments such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
How is polio prevented?
A vaccine is available that protects against polio. It is routinely given to children 2 months of age and older.
Provincial law states that all children going to school in Ontario must be vaccinated against polio unless they are excused for medical or philosophical reasons.
Simple preventative measures can reduce the spread of infection.