What Causes Polio?


Quick Answer

According to the World Health Organization, poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease. Polio spreads easily, usually via infected feces, and cannot be cured, although a safe and effective vaccine has existed since the 1950s.

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Full Answer

Poliomyelitis may be contracted in any of several ways. The World Health Organization reports that the most common transmission pathway is person-to-person as a result of the unwitting consumption of fecal material in food. The virus can also be contracted from contact with the environment, primarily from drinking infected water or swimming in it. The virus multiplies in the intestines. Once infected, patients typically develop a fever and experience fatigue. Additional symptoms include headaches, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. Some people infected with polio develop partial or total paralysis, which can end up becoming permanent.

Though no cure exists for poliomyelitis, and the treatments available for reversing or managing its symptoms are of limited effectiveness, the disease is easy to prevent with a routine course of vaccination that is usually administered in infancy. According to Mayo Clinic, the virus responsible for causing polio has been nearly eradicated in almost every country on Earth, with the exception of Afghanistan, Pakistan and some countries in Africa.

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