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Polio Elimination in the United States

A Polio-Free U.S. Thanks to Vaccine Efforts

father and daughter walking in field

Get your child vaccinated on schedule and be part of the success story.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus. It can cause lifelong paralysis (can’t move parts of the body), and it can be deadly. Polio was once considered one of the most feared diseases in the United States. In the early 1950s, before polio vaccines were available, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year in the United States. Following introduction of vaccines—specifically, trivalent inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) in 1955 and trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) in 1963—the number of polio cases fell rapidly to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s.

Polio has been eliminated from the United States thanks to widespread polio vaccination in this country. This means that there is no year-round transmission of poliovirus in the United States. Since 1979 no cases of polio have originated in the United States. However, the disease has been brought into the country by travelers with polio. The last time this happened was in 1993. It takes only one traveler with polio to bring the disease into the United States. The best way to keep the United States polio-free is to maintain high immunity (protection) in the population against polio through vaccination.

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