Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

Until the 1950s, polio crippled thousands of children every year in industrialised countries. Soon after the introduction of effective vaccines in the late 1950s (IPV) and early 1960s (OPV), polio was brought under control, and practically eliminated as a public health problem in industrialised countries.

It took somewhat longer for polio to be recognised as a major problem in developing countries. However, ‘lameness surveys’ during the 1970s revealed that the disease was also frequent in developing countries, crippling thousands of children every year. As a result, during the 1970s routine immunisation with OPV as part of national immunisation programmes (Expanded Programme on Immunisation, or EPI programmes) was introduced worldwide, helping to control the disease in many developing countries.

Today, the disease has been eliminated from most of the world, and only three countries worldwide remain polio-endemic (Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan).

What is Polio?
Polio is a virus which enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.


What are the Late Effects of Polio?
Years after contracting the initial polio infection, increasing numbers of polio survivors in Australia have developed a range of new symptoms.


Polio Epidemics and Survivor Numbers
During the polio epidemics last century, a significant number of Australians contracted polio. There are an estimated 40,000 polio survivors living in Australia today.


Polio Timeline
Twenty-one panels trace polio’s history from its earliest depiction on an ancient stele, through the recognition of the cause of the disease, the race against time to develop a vaccine, and more.


Polio Vaccine Development
Learn about the scientists who developed the poliovirus vaccines: Dr Jonas Salk, Dr Albert Sabin, and the Australian contribution of Dr Val Bazeley.


Polio Eradication
Without the visionary leadership of Sir Clem Renouf as the president of Rotary International (1978-79), we would not be talking today about the possibility of global polio eradication.


Polio Immunisation
Polio Australia strongly supports ongoing vaccination for polio. As long as there is polio somewhere in the world, the disease is only a plane ride away from re-infecting Australia.


Polio News Feed
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Frequently Asked Questions
A quick reference guide to the most commonly asked questions


Famous Polio Survivors
A list of polio survivors in the spotlight.