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Polio and the Vaccine (Shot) to Prevent It

Fact Sheet for Parents

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Español: Polio

The best way to protect against polio is to get the polio vaccine. Doctors recommend that all children get the vaccine, also called IPV (or inactivated poliovirus).

Why should my child get the polio shot?

The polio shot:

  • Protects your child from polio, a potentially serious disease
  • Prevents your child from developing lifelong paralysis from polio

Is the polio shot safe?

Yes. The polio vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing polio. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Most children who get the polio shot have no side effects.

What are the side effects?

When side effects do occur, they are usually mild, like temporary redness and pain at the injection site.

What is polio?

Polio (or poliomyelitis) is a disease caused by poliovirus. It can cause lifelong paralysis (can’t move parts of the body), and it can be deadly.

What are the symptoms of poliovirus infection?

Most people who get infected with poliovirus do not have any symptoms.

Some people (24 people out of 100) will have flu-like symptoms. These symptoms usually last 2 to 5 days then go away on their own.

In rare cases, poliovirus infection can be very serious. About 1 out of 100 people will have weakness or paralysis in their arms, legs, or both. This paralysis or weakness can last a lifetime.

Is it serious?

The risk of lifelong paralysis is very serious. Even children who seem to fully recover can develop new muscle pain, weakness, or paralysis as adults, 30 or 40 years later.

About 2 to 5 children out of 100 who have paralysis from polio die because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe.

How does polio spread?

Poliovirus is very contagious. It spreads through contact with the stool of an infected person and droplets from a sneeze or cough. If you get stool or droplets from an infected person on your hands and you touch your mouth, you can get infected. Also, if you put objects, like toys, that have stool or droplets on them into your mouth, you can get infected.

An infected person may spread the virus to others immediately before, and usually 1 to 2 weeks after, developing symptoms. The virus may live in an infected person’s stool for many weeks. It can contaminate food and water when people do not wash their hands.

Do people still get polio in the United States?

No, the United States has been polio free for more than 30 years, but the disease is still occurring in other parts of the world. It would only take one traveler with polio from another country to bring polio back to the United States.

Where can I learn more about the polio shot and my child?

To learn more about the polio shot, talk to your child’s doctor, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit the CDC Vaccines for Parents site.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend all children receive their vaccines according to the recommended schedule.

 

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