Navajo County Public Health Services
Polio is a disease caused by a virus. It enters a child’s (or adult’s) body through
the mouth. Sometimes it does not cause serious illness. But sometimes it causes
paralysis (can’t move arm or leg). It can kill people who get it, usually by paralyzing
the muscles that help them breathe.
Polio used to be very common in the United States. It paralyzed and killed thousands
of people a year before we had a vaccine for it.
Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) can prevent 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 about 10. The success of polio vaccination
in the U.S. and other countries sparked a world-wide effort to eliminate polio.
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. Unitl then, we need to keep getting our children
Most children should get 4 doses of polio vaccine at these ages:
12 - 18 months
4 - 6 years
Oral Polio Vaccine
No longer recommended.
Types of Polio Vaccine
IPV, which is the shot recommended in the United States today, and a live, oral
polio vaccine (OPV), which is drops that are swollowed.
Until recently OPV was recommended for most children in the United States. OPV helped
us rid the country of polio, and it is still used in many parts of the world.
Both vaccines give immunity to polio, but OPV is better at keeping the disease from
spreading to other people. However, for a few people (about one in 2.4 million),
OPV actually causes polio. Since the risk of getting polio in the United States
is now extremely low, experts believe that using oral polio vaccine is no longer
worth the slight risk, except in limited cirucumstances which your doctor can describe.
The polio shot (IPV) does not cause polio. If you or your child will be getting
OPV, ask for a copy of the OPV supplemental Vacine Information Statement.
For more information, visit your local health department or Center for Disease Control
and Prevention, Arizona Department of Health.
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