Poliomyelitis (Polio)

Causes

What causes polio? How is it spread?

Polio, short for poliomyelitis, is caused by the poliovirus. The virus can live in your throat and digestive system. It enters the body through your mouth, mainly from food or water that is contaminated with feces.

Polio is a highly contagious illness that can spread easily from person to person. It is most common in children under the age of 5, although anyone who has not been immunized can also get polio.

Canada has been polio free since 1994. However, there is always a risk that polio could return since it is still occurring in other countries (such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria). For example, someone infected with polio from another country could travel to Canada and infect people who are not immunized.

The World Health Assembly has established the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the goal of eradicating polio worldwide. This initiative has become the largest international public health effort to date. It is led by the World Health Organization, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International and UNICEF.

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