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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Is it possible to prevent polio? Is there a polio vaccine?

It is possible to prevent polio with vaccination. Vaccinating individuals, especially young children, can establish lifelong immunity to the disease. The inactivated polio vaccine needs to be given at 2, 4, and between 6 and 18 months of age with a booster between ages 4-6. In 2002, the inactivated polio vaccine was approved to be used as a shot combined with diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and hepatitis B vaccines. However, the CDC still recommends that people traveling to countries were polio is present receive a polio booster shot before they travel. In addition, those people who care for polio patients need to be sure they have been appropriately vaccinated and still should use strict hygiene when caring for those patients.

Although some people who get the inactivated polio vaccine may have a sore area at the shot site, most people have no problems with the vaccine injection, which usually causes no scar formation. (Smallpox vaccines often left a small scar at the inoculation site.)

Picture of a child receiving the oral polio vaccine
Picture of a child receiving the oral polio vaccine

Polio-like illness

In 2014 in California, an outbreak of an illness that resembled polio was identified which retrospectively dated back to 2012. It is now called acute flaccid myelitis. All of the affected children (about 59 through July 2015) developed a rapid onset of paralysis in one or more limbs and MRI findings were consistent with injury to the central spinal cord. All of the children had been vaccinated against polio. Some of the children were positive for enterovirus-68, a virus known to be associated with limb paralysis and breathing difficulties. The CDC and researchers are currently trying to definitively determine the cause of this illness although they agree it is not polio.

To date, the children, ranging ages 2 to young adults, have not responded to steroid or immunoglobin treatments, with only 16% gradually improving over time. This new outbreak of polio-like illness is being intensely investigated.

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

REFERENCES:

Kotz, Deborah. "Paralysis in children linked to polio-like virus, but it's rare." The Boston Globe Mar. 3, 2014. <https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2014/03/03/how-worried-should-about-new-polio-like-virus/D44YZgt3mKHSLgQLdvXYnN/story.html>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Global Health - Polio." Sept. 3, 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/polio/>.

Vidyadhara, S. "Poliomyelitis." Medscape.com. Jan. 15, 2014. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1259213-overview>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/17/2016

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  • Polio -- Patient Experience

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