Polio

What is Polio?

A 1916 polio epidemic in the United States killed 6,000 people and paralyzed 27,000 more. In the early 1950’s there were more than 20,000 cases of polio each year. Polio vaccination was begun in 1955. By 1960 the number of cases had dropped to about 3,000, and by 1979 there were only 10 cases reported in the U.S. The success of polio vaccination in the U.S. and other countries sparked a world-wide effort to eliminate polio.

Today: No wild polio has been reported in the United States for over 20 years. But the disease is still common in some parts of the world. It would only take one case of polio from another country to bring the disease back if we were not protected by vaccine. If the effort to eliminate the disease from the world is successful, some day we won’t need polio vaccine. Until then, we need to keep getting our children vaccinated.

Polio Vaccination

Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) is a shot, given in the leg or arm, depending on age. The polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children. Most adults do not need polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children. But three groups of adults are at higher risk and should consider polio immunization booster:

  • people traveling to areas of the world where polio is common,
  • laboratory workers who might handle polio virus, and
  • health care workers treating patients who could have polio.

(Resource CDC VIS 01/01/08)

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