Polio (also called poliomyelitis) is a contagious disease that causes permanent damage and sometimes death.

The virus that causes polio (poliovirus) infects the brain and spinal cord causing paralysis. It is spread by contact with infected faeces or by droplets from a sneeze or a cough. For example, if children put toys with traces of poo from another infected child into their mouths they will be at risk of infection.

The majority of people infected do not show any symptoms, and others may have flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache and stomach pain.

In some people with the infection, the virus will spread from the digestive system to the nervous system (brain and spinal cord), causing pins and needles in the legs, meningitis (infection of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord), and paralysis or weakness of the limbs. This invasive disease is called poliomyelitis.

Paralysis caused by polio can lead to death because of breathing difficulties, and many survivors have permanent muscle pain, weakness and limb deformities. Complications can also include high blood pressure, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and inflammation of the heart (myocarditis). About 2-5% of children and 15-30% of adults with poliomyelitis will die. The 6-in-1 vaccine protects children from the virus that causes polio.