Poliomyelitis (Polio)

Poliomyelitis is an infectious disease caused by the polio virus. It is more commonly known simply as polio. It is most often spread from person to person through the fecal-oral route. Although the virus can cause serious illness and can even lead to paralysis, a large majority of people infected will show no signs or symptoms of the disease.

Canada has been polio-free since 1994 due to the success of the polio vaccine. But there is still the possibility of the virus entering Canada from an individual coming in from another country where polio is still occurring.

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A large majority (90 to 95 per cent) of the people infected with polio show no signs or symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they appear 7 to 14 days after infection. They can include fever, fatigue, headache and vomiting. If the severity of the disease increases, severe muscle pain and stiffness of the neck and back may occur. Paralysis in the area where there is nerve cell damage may follow. Paralysis lasting 60 or more days may lead to permanent paralysis.


Poliomyelitis is caused by the poliovirus, which is most commonly spread from person to person through the fecal-oral route. This can happen when water comes into contact with an infected person's feces and is not properly treated. A person can ingest this contaminated water by drinking it or washing their food with it.

It may be possible to spread the virus through the respiratory system. But this accounts for only a few of the overall infections.

In very rare cases, individuals can develop vaccine-derived polio following immunization with the oral polio vaccine. The oral vaccine form is not offered in Canada.


There is currently no cure for polio. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.


Polio can be prevented through immunization. Manitoba has a provincial immunization program, which provides free, publicly-funded vaccines to those who are eligible. As there is no cure for polio, immunization is the best way to protect you and your loved ones.

Consult your health care provider when travelling to areas where polio is endemic (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria). It is recommended that travellers take proper precautions to prevent polio infection when travelling to these places.

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