Protect Yourself with Polio Vaccine!

Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract. It is most often spread through person-to-person contact with the stool of an infected person and may also be spread through oral/nasal secretions. Polio used to be very common in the U.S. and caused severe illness in thousands of people each year before polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. Most people infected with the polio virus have no symptoms, however for the less than 1% who develop paralysis it may result in permanent disability and even death.

Up to 95% of persons infected with polio will have no symptoms. About four to eight percent of infected persons have minor symptoms such as fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, flu-like symptoms, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the limbs which often resolves completely. Fewer than one percent of polio cases result in permanent paralysis of the limbs (usually the legs). Of those paralyzed, 5-10% die when the paralysis strikes the respiratory muscles.

There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). IPV, used in the U.S. since 2000, is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on age. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines. Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children. Children get 4 doses of IPV, at these ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and booster dose at 4-6 years. OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000 but is still used in many parts of the world.

Most adults do not need polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children. But three groups of adults are at higher risk and should consider a booster dose of polio vaccine in the following situations:

  • You are traveling to polio-endemic or high-risk areas of the world. Ask your healthcare provider for specific information on whether you need to be vaccinated.
  • You are working in a laboratory and handling specimens that might contain polioviruses.
  • You are a healthcare worker treating patients who could have polio or have close contact with a person who could be infected with poliovirus.

Adults in these three groups who have never been vaccinated against polio should get 3 doses of IPV:

  • The first dose at any time,
  • The second dose 1 to 2 months later,
  • The third dose 6 to 12 months after the second.

Adults in these three groups who have had 1 or 2 doses of polio vaccine in the past should get the remaining 1 or 2 doses. It doesn't matter how long it has been since the earlier dose(s).

If you are traveling outside of the U.S , visit: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/vaccinations.aspx
For more specific information related to polio vaccine and other information you need before you travel.

Most of the above information was taken from:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/in-short-both.htm .
For more specific information, refer to the Polio Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-IPV.pdf