Bookmark and Share


did you know?

The polio virus attacks the brain and nerves and can paralyse the body in hours.

Polio - What is it?

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a serious, easily spread disease caused by a virus called poliovirus.

Australia was certified polio free in the year 2000, but people can still catch polio while overseas in countries where polio is still common and could bring it back to Australia.

Polio - What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of polio can appear between 3 and 21 days after catching poliovirus.

Many people who catch poliovirus will have no symptoms, but if symptoms do occur, they may be like the flu such as: headache, nausea, vomiting, generally feeling unwell and stiffness of the neck and back.

The most severe kind of polio, known as 'paralytic polio', can cause paralysis in the arms, legs or diaphragm (the part of your body which helps you breathe).

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following a poliovirus infection. Please speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about poliovirus infection.

Polio - How is it spread?

Poliovirus is spread easily from person to person through contact with faeces or saliva from a person infected with poliovirus. Once the virus enters the body through the mouth, it multiplies in the throat and your gut.

Once a person has polio, they can spread it to other people between 7 to 10 days before to 7 to 10 days after their symptoms appear. If a person has no symptoms, the poliovirus can still be spread for several weeks after catching it.

Polio - Who is at risk?

Anyone who has not been vaccinated can catch polio, especially travellers going to countries where polio is still present. Healthcare workers and people who work in laboratories that may come into contact with poliovirus or people with polio are also at risk of catching polio.

Other people may be at risk of polio. Please speak to your doctor regarding your individual circumstances.

Polio – Vaccination

Polio vaccination is recommended and provided free for infants as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP). It is usually given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, followed by a booster at 4 years of age.

All adults who have not been immunised should also be vaccinated against polio.

Polio booster vaccination is only recommended for:

  • travellers who are going to countries where poliovirus is still present
  • healthcare workers who may come into contact with people with polio or with poliovirus
  • people who work in laboratories who may come into contact with poliovirus 

It is important to complete the recommended course of vaccinations to help protect against polio.

In Australia, vaccination against polio may be provided in combination vaccines that also help to protect against other diseases.

Polio – Treatment

There is no cure for polio. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and can range from relief for pain and fever to physiotherapy and devices to help you breathe in severe cases.

For information about polio immunisation in your area, contact your State or Territory Health Department or doctor.


Some side effects may be experienced following vaccination. Please discuss any side effects or concerns with a healthcare professional.




AUS/VAC/0021/15. Date of approval: March 2015.