Polio: Symptoms and treatment

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Symptoms of polio

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious vaccine-preventable disease that is caused by the poliovirus. Most people who are infected with poliovirus don't have any symptoms. Those who get symptoms at first may experience:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • aching muscles
  • stiff neck or back

Typically, symptoms last between 2 and 10 days and go away on their own.

In less than 1% of cases, polio will damage a person's nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. In these cases, polio damages the nerves that activate muscles. This can result in weakness or paralysis. Paralysis is the loss of the ability to move all or part of your body. Nerve and muscle damage caused by polio can be permanent.

If you become ill

See your doctor or health care provider right away if you or your child:

  • has been in contact with someone who has been infected with polio
  • have any symptoms after travelling to a country where polio is still present

Identifying cases of polio in Canada is important to stop it from spreading.

Learn more about:

Diagnosing polio

A health care provider will diagnose a patient if they suspect polio. They will assess the patient's symptoms, travel history and vaccination history. They may also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain and spinal cord and collect samples, such as:

  • stool
  • urine
  • blood
  • spinal fluid
  • throat swab

These tests are necessary to diagnose for polio or another similar condition.

Treating polio

There is no specific therapy for polio. However, getting vaccinated against polio can prevent the disease.

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