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Polio is a reportable disease in Oklahoma. Polio is a viral disease, which may affect the central nervous system. Since polio immunization has become widespread, cases of polio are very rare. Transmission of wild poliovirus was interrupted in the United States in 1979, or possibly earlier. A polio eradication program conducted by the Pan American Health Organization led to elimination of polio in the Western Hemisphere in 1991. The Global Polio Eradication Program has dramatically reduced poliovirus transmission throughout the world. In 2005, only 1,948 confirmed cases of polio were reported globally and polio was endemic in six countries.

Most infections do not cause serious illness. Most persons infected do not have symptoms. However, if symptoms occur it may include fever, tiredness, headache, nausea, stiffness in the neck, pain in the limbs, or vomiting. These symptoms will usually occur six to 20 days after exposure, but can range from three to 35 days. However, some people who get polio become paralyzed, that is, they lose the use of their muscles. This is called paralytic polio. Paralytic polio can start like a common cold, but often with severe muscle pain. Paralysis usually comes within the first week. Most often it affects the legs, but sometimes it affects other muscles including those that control breathing. Some recover from their paralysis, but many will be permanently disabled.

Anyone who has not been vaccinated can get the disease. Because there are people throughout the world and in the United States that are not vaccinated, it is possible that infected travelers can carry polio to unvaccinated people. Polio is spread through contact with the stool of an infected person. Polio virus must be swallowed to cause infection. This can happen when hands that are contaminated with stool are put in the mouth. Poliovirus can be found in throat secretions as early as 36 hours and in stool 72 hours after exposure. The virus can be passed through throat secretions for up to one week and in stool for three to six weeks. Infected persons are most contagious a few days before and after the onset of symptoms. Infected persons that do not have symptoms can also pass the virus to others. Persons that are immunocompromised (HIV, asplenic, or undergoing cancer treatment) may be able to pass the virus for longer periods of time.

The best prevention of polio is the vaccine covers all three types of polio virus. There are two vaccines, an oral polio vaccine (OPV) and an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). Currently, only the IPV is given in the United States. The OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000, but is still given in many parts of the world. Contact your healthcare provider for more information regarding the vaccine.

Polio Fact Sheets and Information:

Polio Fact Sheet (36k.pdf)

External Polio Resources:

Polio (CDC)
Polio Vaccine Information Statement (CDC) 
Polio Vaccine Information Statement - Other Languages (CDC)

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