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Diseases & Topics


Poliomyelitis (polio) is a vaccine-preventable, highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system. Polio can cause paralysis of the limbs and of the respiratory system and can lead to permanent disability and death. Polio is spread by person-to-person contact and only affects humans.

In the late 1940s to the early 1950s, before a vaccine was developed, polio crippled an average of over 35,000 Americans each year. Since 1979, due to widespread vaccination, the United States has been polio-free. But poliovirus is still a threat in some countries, so vaccination is still crucial to protecting people everywhere from the disease. Beginning at age 2 months, children should get four doses of polio vaccine. This vaccine is given as a shot in the arm or leg and is extremely safe.

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