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What are the symptoms of polio?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Symptoms may vary depending on which type of polio you have. Many infected by the virus fail to show symptoms at all. About ninety percent of those affected by the poliovirus show symptoms similar to the flu-nausea, head and body aches, weak and stiff muscles, fever, muscle pain, and tiredness. These symptoms may last about two weeks.

A small percentage of people infected with virus show more severe symptoms, causing this strain known as paralytic polio. Within ten days of exposure you may notice a change in your reflexes, spasms, intense pain in your muscles, difficulty breathing, and an inability to control your limbs, resulting in paralysis. These symptoms may increase or lessen with time, and in some cases they may be permanent.

Initial symptoms include fatigue, fever, vomiting, headache, stiffness and limb pains. At this stage, about one in 200 cases will lead to paralysis.

While polio usually affects the legs, it can sometimes spread to the breathing muscles and when that occurs, the results are usually lethal.

Polio occurs most often in children, but also affects adults. The immune system can fight off the disease better at early age, so the older someone is at primary infection, the more likely the person is to develop paralysis, or even die from polio.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.