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

Thanks to immunisation, poliomyelitis has practically disappeared in most countries. It has, in particular, been eliminated from the American continent.


The majority of people infected with poliomyelitis have no symptoms.

When symptoms occur, they are the following:

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General discomfort

When to consult

Poliomyelitis still exists, in particular in Nigeria, 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 against poliomyelitis. However, vaccination provides protection against this disease.


The following are possible complications of poliomyelitis:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Paralysis of the arms and legs that may become permanent
  • Death


Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease. It is transmitted through 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.

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 Nigeria. Before travelling, it is advised that you 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 Immunisation 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 that 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.