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Poliomyelitis, also called polio, is a disease caused by the poliovirus. This virus attacks the nervous system. Poliomyelitis is highly contagious.


Most people infected with poliomyelitis have no symptoms.

When symptoms occur, they are the following:

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General discomfort

The severe form of poliomyelitis may present as:

  • respiratory problems
  • muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and back, without or without paralysis
  • paralysis of the arms and legs, which may become permanent.

It can also be fatal.

When to consult

Poliomyelitis still exists, in particular in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If you have symptoms similar to those of a flu upon your return from a trip to one of these countries, consult your doctor or your CLSC. It is important to detect cases of poliomyelitis in order to prevent the disease from spreading.


There is no treatment for poliomyelitis. However, vaccination provides protection against this disease.


Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease. It is transmitted through the feces or secretions from the nose and throat of an infected person. The poliomyelitis virus can also be caught by drinking water or eating food that is contaminated.

Because of vaccination, poliomyelitis has virtually disappeared in most countries. It has been eliminated, in particular, from the Americas since 1996.

Some foreign countries use an oral vaccine. This vaccine contains attenuated poliovirus strains that protect against the disease. However, these strains can be transmitted to other people, who may then present with symptoms of poliomyelitis. This is a rare occurrence. This situation was detected in June 2022 in a resident of the State of New York.

Protection and prevention


Vaccination is the best way to be protected against poliomyelitis.

The poliomyelitis vaccine is a combined vaccine, meaning that it protects against several diseases at the same time. Components of the vaccine vary depending on the person’s age. According to Québec’s immunization schedule, the poliomyelitis vaccine is given to children starting at 2 months of age.

Precautions for travellers

Poliomyelitis still exists in some countries, such as in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Before travelling, you are advised to have your vaccination record and that of your children checked. This way, you will know if you are adequately protected against poliomyelitis. In case of doubt, consult your doctor or your CLSC, or contact Info-Santé 811.

Procedure for getting vaccinated

Under the Québec Immunization Program, anyone can get vaccinated against poliomyelitis for free.

See the Québec Immunisation Program page to know the procedure for getting vaccinated.

Risk factors

Unvaccinated people who travel to countries where poliomyelitis still exists are more at risk of catching the disease.

People at risk

People who have never been vaccinated can get infected by the poliomyelitis virus regardless of their age.

Special conditions

Poliomyelitis is a reportable disease in Québec.

When laboratory staff and health professionals detect a case of poliomyelitis, they must inform public health authorities.

Last update: August 22, 2022


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