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 immunization with OPV as part of national immunization programmes (Expanded Programme on Immunization, 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.

Australian Polio Survivor Numbers
During the polio epidemics last century, a significant number of Australians contracted polio. There are an estimated 400,000 polio survivors living in Australia today.

Polio Then and Now
Trace polio’s history, and learn about important contributions to the knowledge and treatment of polio, the vaccine pioneers, and the vision of Sir Clem Renouf for a polio-free world.