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Can Polio be prevented and are there treatment options?

Updated August 15, 2022


Polio can be prevented by avoiding travel to countries where cases and outbreaks of wild-type and vaccine-derived polio are occurring. 

Additional preventative measures also include –

  • Frequent, thorough handwashing with soap and clean water
  • Hand sanitizer use if soap and clean water are not available
  • Reducing the risk of potential exposure by avoiding hand contact with the mouth, nose or eyes
  • Avoiding close contact with persons who are sick
  • Refraining from sharing personal items with persons who are ill
  • Using a tissue or sleeve to cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoidance of any food and drinks that could be contaminated with feces

Polio can also be prevented by avoiding intramuscular (IM) injections and tonsillectomies in areas where the poliovirus may be circulating. Published medical research has associated both IM injections and tonsillectomies with an increased rate of paralytic polio.           

Approximately 95 percent of all polio cases are asymptomatic. This means that most people who are exposed to the virus will have no clinical symptoms of illness. Between 4 and 8 percent of individuals exposed to the poliovirus will develop mild symptoms, which often include flu-like illness, respiratory tract infections, and gastroenteritis. 

Approximately one percent of polio cases present as aseptic meningitis, and symptoms generally include severe back, neck, or leg spasms. Full recovery usually occurs within 10 days.  Most cases of aseptic meningitis can be treated at home with the use of analgesics and anti-nausea medications; however, hospitalization may be necessary if symptoms are severe and additional medical interventions, including the use of intravenous fluids (IV), are necessary to prevent and treat complications. 

Less than one percent of children exposed to polio will develop paralytic polio, the most severe form of polio.   Treatment of paralytic polio is supportive and can include medications for pain relief, physical therapy to prevent muscle loss and deformity, and mechanical ventilation to assist with breathing, if necessary. 

Vitamin C may also be effective at treating and curing polio. In July 1949, Dr. Fred Klenner published a paper reporting that he was able to cure 100 percent of his polio patients using high doses of vitamin C.   

Diet has also been suggested as a way to prevent polio and researchers have reported that diets high in refined flour and sugar can increase a person’s chance of developing polio.   

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Polio and the Polio vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.


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