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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury



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

Tamariki (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 poo (faeces) then touch your mouth without having washed your hands.

Polio usually affects tamariki children under 5. Mostly it starts with 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.

Although we aren't seeing new cases of polio, many people who have had polio have a disability caused by it.

Post-polio syndrome refers to a group of symptoms and disabilities that appear 20 to 45 years after the initial polio illness. If you've had polio in the past, it's important to be aware of this condition and how it may affect you.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


Page reference: 58125

Review key: HIPOL-58125