Polio: Still a Threat?

Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system. It is transmitted through contaminated water and food or by direct contact. There is no cure.

Countries such as northern Nigeria, northern India and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan account for more than 75 percent of global polio cases today. Rotary International, along with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have made it their mission to eradicate the disease all over the world, and so far more than 10 million people are walking today who otherwise would have been paralyzed.

In the United States, polio seems like a disease of the past. Since 1955, Americans have received vaccines to defend against the condition, and by 1979 the country became polio-free.

“One of the greatest blessings of all our careers is we’ve never had to tell a patient, 'You have polio,'” ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says. “Quite simply, because we’ve done one heck of a job.”

Polio comes in two primary forms, non-paralytic and paralytic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 

  • Approximately 72 percent of those infected show no symptoms.
  • About 24 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 resolve completely.
  • Fewer than 1 percent of polio cases result in permanent paralysis of the limbs (usually the legs).


A possible pandemic? 

Polio eradication timeline 

Mysterious illness