Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young
children. The virus is transmitted by person-to- person, spreading mainly through the
fecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or
food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can
cause a great damage.
Doctors often recognize polio by its symptoms. The initial symptoms of polio include
fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, and stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. In a
small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Among
those paralyzed, 5 to 10% die when their respiratory muscles become immobilized. To
confirm the diagnosis, a sample of throat secretions, stool or cerebrospinal fluid (a
colorless fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord) is checked for the presence of
There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization. Otherwise, Polio
vaccine, when given multiple times, can protect a child for life, be it the Oral Polio
Vaccine (OPV) or the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) (via injection).
In the future, and once polio is eradicated, the world will be able to celebrate the
delivery of a major global public good that will benefit all people equally, no matter
where they live. Economic modelling has found that the eradication of polio would
save at least US$ 40–50 billion over the next 20 years, mostly in low-income
countries. Most importantly, success will mean that no child will ever again suffer the
terrible effects of lifelong polio-paralysis.