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HealthInfo Canterbury

Polio

Polio (also called poliomyelitis) is a viral infection that's very contagious, meaning it spreads easily. Polio used to be common but it's now rare due to vaccination.

Children receive the polio vaccine as part of the National Immunisation Schedule.

When someone with polio coughs, sneezes and talks, they release droplets into the air. You can catch polio by breathing in the droplets. You can also catch it if you come into contact with their faeces (poo) then touch your mouth without having washed your hands.

Polio usually affects children under 5. Most people initially develop a flu-like illness. A small number of cases spread to the nervous system and can cause long term paralysis and disability.

Fortunately, the last reported new case of polio in New Zealand was in 1998. In 2000, the Western Pacific was declared a polio-free zone.

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On the next page: Post-polio syndrome

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2018.

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Page reference: 58125

Review key: HIPOL-58125