Polio

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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Polio facts

  • Polio is an infectious disease caused by viruses; the symptoms may range from none to paralysis and death.
  • Polio has been traced back almost 6,000 years; great strides have been made in preventing this disease.
  • Polio is caused by person-to-person transmission of polio viruses (enteroviruses, three main types).
  • Not receiving the polio vaccine is the highest risk factor for getting infected with poliovirus; the viruses are only spread human to human by direct and indirect contact.
  • Symptoms and signs of polio vary from no symptoms to limb deformities, paralysis, and death.
  • Diagnosis of polio is based on the patient's history, physical exam, and ongoing symptoms; the virus may be isolated from the patient's tissues to confirm the diagnosis.
  • There is no cure for polio; treatment is mainly supportive and is aimed at limiting or reducing the patient's symptoms.
  • For most patients, the prognosis is good because there are few or no symptoms; however, the prognosis declines rapidly as some patients develop more severe symptoms such as limb deformity, paralysis, difficulty breathing, and/or inability to swallow foods.
  • It is possible to prevent polio by vaccination; it may be possible to eradicate polio.
  • There are at least two types of polio vaccine (intramuscular injection or oral attenuated live vaccine); both types are effective in preventing polio.
  • A polio-like illness has recently been discovered in California in children that produces paralysis like that seen in some polio patients; the illness is not polio according to doctors treating the children.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/8/2014

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