Poliomyelitis or polio is an infection caused by the polio virus. It is a serious disease affecting the central nervous system. Infection with the poliovirus can lead to a life-threatening muscular paralysis of the body.
In the last 20 years the number of polio cases around the world has reduced. This is largely due to global vaccination
programs that aim to immunise people against the poliovirus.
Countries such as North and South America, the western Pacific region (including Australia) and Europe are now all polio-free; however cases are still being reported in some parts of Asia and Africa, including cases of vaccine derived polio in Papua New Guinea in 2018. For up to date information see:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smart Traveller to up to date travel advice.
Poliovirus infection is a notifiable condition1
How polio is spread
People can become infected with polio primarily via faecal – oral transmission. Ingestion can occur in the following ways:
eating food prepared by someone who has polio
drinking untreated water that has been contaminated with the poliovirus via sewage
contact with the nose and throat discharge of a person infected with the poliovirus for example contact with soiled handkerchiefs or discarded tissues
contact with objects or surfaces touched by an infected person whose hands contain traces of faeces or alternatively having direct contact with the infected persons hands
inhaling or ingesting airborne droplets from the coughs and sneezes of someone infected with poliovirus.
Polio can be easily transmitted when someone infected with the poliovirus has close contact with many other people, such as in day care centres and family homes.
Signs and symptoms
Most people infected with the poliovirus will have no symptoms. Ten per cent of infected people may experience flu-like symptoms such as:
occasionally neck and back stiffness – referred to as non-paralytic aseptic meningitis.
Less than 1% of people infected with poliovirus develop severe muscle weakness (acute flaccid paralysis) affecting the limbs, diaphragm muscle (essential for breathing), and the head and neck muscles.
The risk of permanent limb paralysis is less than 1%. Death occurs in 2 to 5% of children and 15 to 30% of adults with paralytic polio.
Cases are diagnosed on signs and symptoms; and also by a laboratory test for the poliovirus on a person’s throat secretions, faeces or CSF.
Typically 7 to 14 days with a range of 3 to 35 days.
Transmission is possible as long as the poliovirus is shed.
The poliovirus can stay in the throat for about 7 days and in the faeces for 3 to 6 weeks.
There is no cure for poliovirus infection.
Treatment focuses on managing the consequences of severe muscle weakness. This may include admission to intensive care for mechanical ventilation, and physiotherapy or antispasmodic medications to reduce muscle spasm.
Use of the information and data contained within this site or these pages is at your sole risk.
If you rely on the information on this site you are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency or completeness.
This site includes links to other websites operated by community, business and government.
These linked websites will have their own terms and conditions of use and you should familiarise yourself with these.
All linked websites are linked 'as is' and the Government of South Australia:
does not sponsor, endorse or necessarily approve of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations regarding the quality, accuracy, merchantability or fitness for purpose of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations that material on other websites to which this site is linked does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any person anywhere in the world; and
does not authorise the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material in other websites by linking this site to those other websites.
If you use automatic language translation services in connection with this site you do so at your own risk.
The information and data on this site is subject to change without notice. The Government of South Australia may revise this disclaimer at any time by updating this posting.
The Government of South Australia, its agents, instrumentalities, officers and employees:
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information and data contained on this site
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or usefulness of any translation of the information on this site or any linked website into another language
make no representations as to the availability of the site and the availability of websites linked from or to the site
accept no liability however arising for any loss resulting from the use of the site and any information and data or reliance placed on it (including translated information and data)
make no representations, either expressed or implied, as to the suitability of the said information and data for any particular purpose
accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user's computer, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this Site or its use or any website linked to this site
do not represent or warrant that applications or payments initiated through this site will in fact be received or made to the intended recipient. Users are advised to confirm the application or payment by other means.