Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease that is caused by a virus. It enters the body through the mouth and does not usually cause serious illness. But sometimes it causes paralysis and it can cause meningitis. It can kill people who get it, usually by paralyzing the muscles that help them breathe. 

Symptoms include sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache and stomach pain. These symptoms usually last 2-5 days. 

Poliovirus only infects humans. It is very contagious and spreads through person-to-person contact. An infected person may spread the virus to others immediately before and about 1 to 2 weeks after symptoms appear. People who don’t have symptoms can still pass the virus to others and make them sick.

Polio used to be very common in the United States. A 1916 polio epidemic in the United States killed 6,000 people and paralyzed 27,000 more (CDC). In the early 1950's there were more than 25,000 cases of polio reported each year. Polio vaccination began in 1955 and by 1960, the number of reported cases had dropped to 3,000 and by 1979, there were only around 10 (CDC). 

Polio has been eliminated in the United States but the disease is still common in some parts of the world. It would take only one infected person coming from another country to bring the disease back to the U.S. if we were not protected by the vaccine. 

For more information about polio, the vaccine and the global health effort to eradicate polio worldwide through vaccination, click here.


Polio vaccine provides the best protection against polio. Almost all children (99 out of 100) who get all the recommended doses of polio vaccine will be protected from polio. Getting the recommended doses of the polio vaccine is an extremely important part of keeping the United States polio-free.

The first polio vaccine was available in the United States in 1955. Currently, the United States only uses inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV). IPV is given as a shot in the arm or leg and is extremely safe.

For more information on the polio vaccine, click here.

School Exclusion and Reportable to Public Health

In the extremely unlikely case of a child infected with polio in the United States, the student would be excluded from school and would return based on recommendations from the Public Health office. 

A case of polio in the United States would need to be reported immediately to Public Health. 

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