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Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system, causing paralysis and difficulty breathing.

Widespread use of the polio vaccine has caused polio to be eliminated from many parts of the world. 

In 1994, Canada was certified as a "polio-free" country. Within the last 30 years, the only polio cases in British Columbia were non-vaccinated residents who had contact with polio-infected visitors from another country.

Information for Health Professionals

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a very contagious disease caused by infection with a virus. While some infected people show no symptoms, others can develop paralysis (because the virus affects the parts of the nervous system controlling muscle function) and may die.


Symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • severe muscle pain and spasms
  • stiffness of the neck and back
  • weakness of one or more arms or legs
  • paralysis of the face and neck
  • paralysis of breathing muscles

  • Polio is caused by three types of polio virus.
  • It is spread from person-to-person. 
    • The virus lives in the bowel movements (stool) of infected people.
    • If stool contaminates the hands, water or food, others can become infected.

Polio causes permanent paralysis (usually in the legs) in 1 of every 200 people infected.   

Among those paralysed, 5-10% die when their breathing muscles stop working.


There is no cure for polio.  Polio is prevented by vaccination and sanitary measures (see below).


 Immunization with polio vaccine is the best way to prevent the disease.

SOURCE: Polio ( )
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