iCliniq logo

Ask a Doctor Online Now

HomeHealth articlespolioPolio (Poliomyelitis) - Symptoms | Diagnosis | Prevention | Manage

Polio (Poliomyelitis) - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention and Manage

Verified dataVerified data

4 min read


Poliomyelitis is a deadly disease that can cause damage to the brain and the spinal cord, which can lead to paralysis. Read the article to know more.

Written by

Dr. Preetha. J

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At April 4, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 16, 2023

What Is Poliomyelitis?


Poliomyelitis is a disabling and deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It can spread from one person to the other person; invade the brain and spinal cord, leading to paralysis (inability to move the body parts). After acquiring it from the infected person, they serve as a reservoir of the poliovirus.

The transmission can be mainly through the fecal-oral route or, less frequently, by contaminated water or food and multiplies in the intestine. Children below the age of five years are more prone to contracting the virus than any other age group. This virus will primarily grow and multiply in the intestine to attack the nervous system. This causes polio and paralysis on an advanced level.

What Are the Symptoms of Poliomyelitis?

Symptoms of Poliomyelitis

A highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus is called poliomyelitis. It usually invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a person affected with poliovirus in a matter of a few hours. Initial symptoms may involve fever, headache, fatigue, vomiting, stiffness of the neck, and pain in the limbs. About 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Those among the paralyzed will die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Usually, people infected with poliovirus (72 out of 100 people) will not have visible symptoms.

Non-Paralytic Polio:

Few people with poliovirus infection will have flu-like symptoms. This type of poliomyelitis is called non-paralytic polio.

The symptoms involve:

  • Sore throat.

  • Fever.

  • Tiredness.

  • Nausea.

  • Headache.

  • Stomach pain.

  • Pain in the limbs.

  • Meningitis.

  • Abnormal reflexes.

  • Back pain.

  • Stiffness of the neck.

  • Stiffness and tenderness in the arm and leg.

  • The trouble with swallowing and breathing.

These symptoms will last two to five days, then subside on their own.

Paralytic Polio:

A smaller proportion of people (1 out of 100 or 5 out of 1000 people) with poliovirus infection will develop more severe symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord. This type of poliomyelitis is called paralytic poliomyelitis. The symptoms of paralytic polio may include:

  • Paresthesia or abnormal sensation (feeling of pins and needles in the legs).

  • Meningitis (infection of the spinal cord or brain).

  • Paralysis or weakness in the arms, legs, or both.

  • Sudden paralysis (temporary or permanent).

  • Loss of reflexes.

  • Severe spasms.

  • Muscle tenderness.

  • Respiratory illness.

  • Gastroenteritis.

  • Loose and floppy limbs (one-sided).

  • Deformed limbs, usually in the hips, ankles, and feet.

What Are the Post-Polio Symptoms?

Some children who seem to recover fully from the polio infection can develop weakness, new muscle pain, or paralysis as adults later in their life. This is called post-polio syndrome. The symptoms may include:

  • Continuing muscle and joint weakness.

  • Muscle pain that gets worse.

  • Easily exhausted or fatigued.

  • Depression.

  • Muscle wasting.

  • Difficulty in breathing and swallowing.

  • Sleep-related breathing problems.

  • Intolerance to cold temperatures.

  • Problem with concentration and memory.

How Can Paralysis Affect People With Polio?

Paralysis is the most severe symptom of poliomyelitis infection because it can lead to permanent disability and death. Around 2 to 10 out of 100 people who have paralysis from poliovirus infection may die because the virus will cause paralysis of the muscles that help in breathing.

How Is Poliomyelitis Transmitted?

Poliomyelitis is transmitted through the fecal-oral route when a person is in contact with the infected feces. Objects like toys that have come in contact with the infected feces can also transmit the virus. Children below the age of five are more prone to contracting the disease. It can also be transmitted through a sneeze or a cough, as the virus lives in the throat and intestines; however, this is less common.

The spreading of the virus in the feces is the reason for it being a highly contagious disease. Maximum excretion of the virus is seen within two to three days prior to or one week after the appearance of symptoms. Pregnant women, people with poor immune systems such as those with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and young children below five years are the most prone to the poliovirus.

The spread is more in the areas with poor sanitation, especially among the people with poor immunity. People living in these areas can contract polio from drinking water that is contaminated by the infected human waste. The virus is so contagious that anyone living with people who have the virus can contract it too. The spread of the virus is mainly seen in the summer in warm regions.

If not vaccinated, the chances of contracting polio can increase in people who:

  • Travel to an area with a recent polio outbreak.

  • Live with someone infected with polio.

  • Removed their tonsils.

  • Handle a laboratory specimen of the virus.

  • Have extreme stress after exposure to the virus.

How to Diagnose Poliomyelitis?

Polio can be diagnosed by looking at the symptoms. The doctor will perform a physical examination look for:

  • Impaired reflexes.

  • Back and neck stiffness.

  • Difficulty lifting your head while lying flat.

  • Testing of the sample from the throat, stool, or cerebrospinal fluid for the poliovirus.

How to Prevent and Manage Poliomyelitis?

The two types of vaccine that is available to prevent polio are:

  • Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) is given as an injection in the leg or arm.

  • Oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) is still used throughout the world.

The polio vaccine will protect children by preparing their bodies to fight against the poliovirus. Almost all children who get all the recommended doses of the inactivated polio vaccine will be protected from polio.


Since improper sanitation and lack of personal hygiene were the most important contributory factors, it can infect infants at an age beyond the protection of maternal antibodies.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does Polio Spread?

Polio is very contagious. It can spread through the infected person’s droplets and fecal matter.


What Part of the Body Is the Most Affected by Poliomyelitis?

Poliovirus affects the spine of the infected person. This viral infection causes muscle weakness and can cause paralysis.


Which Virus Causes Poliomyelitis?

Poliomyelitis is a contagious viral infection caused due to poliovirus.


What Is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy can happen after polio which means dissolution or loss of calcium from the bone.


Is Poliovirus Eradicated?

Poliovirus is eradicated in all continents except Asia. However, India and Pakistan still consider polio to be an endemic.


What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Poliomyelitis?

Poliomyelitis is caused due to the poliovirus. The initial symptom of poliovirus is fever and headache, which later progresses into paralysis.


What Is the Age Limit for Polio Vaccine?

The polio vaccine can be administered from the age of five.


Did People Get Polio After Getting Vaccinated?

Polio vaccination eradicated polio from the US. People do not get polio infection after getting a polio vaccination.
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Ask your health query to a doctor online

General Medicine

*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy