Poliomyelitis (Polio) infection is caused by a virus which affects the nervous system and can lead to permanent paralysis, usually of the legs. Only a small number of cases become more serious. Most people infected will have very mild symptoms, or none at all.


Fever, tiredness, headache, vomiting, muscle stiffness in back and neck, pain in the limbs.

How do you catch polio?

Polio can be spread from person to person - through coughs or sneezes or contact with infected human waste – or by eating/drinking contaminated food and water.

Incubation period

7 – 10 days


A stool or tissue sample is sent to a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis.


A vaccine combined with diphtheria and tetanus is part of the UK routine vaccination schedule. A booster can be given if needed. Food and water hygiene is important - wash hands frequently and avoid contact with water that might be contaminated with sewage.


There is no cure for polio. Medications can be given to ease fever, pain and vomiting. Medical support with breathing may be needed if the breathing muscles are affected.