Immunisation & Vaccine Preventable Diseases

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Immunisation and Vaccines

Poliomyelitis (Polio)

General Information | Surveillance & Epidemiology

Poliomyelitis is an acute illness caused by one of the three serotypes of poliovirus. The virus infects and replicates in the gastrointestinal tract before spreading through the body using the bloodstream to susceptible tissues or in rare cases to the central nervous system by retrograde axonal transport through neurons. Most infections cause no clinical symptoms but severity of symptoms can range from fever to aseptic meningitis or paralysis. Gastrointestinal symptoms, malaise, stiffness of the neck and back and headache can also occur, with or without paralysis.

Transmission of poliovirus occurs through contact with the faeces or pharyngeal secretions of infected individuals who can excrete virus for up to 6 weeks in faeces and two weeks in saliva. Cases are most infectious immediately before, and one to two weeks after the onset of paralytic disease. The incubation period of poliomyelitis ranges from three to 21 days.

Immunisation against polio is the most effective method of disease prevention and has been part of the routine schedule since 1956. Currently, polio immunisation is part of the routine childhood immunisations and is administered in the pentavalent diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilius influenzae B (DTaP/IPV/Hib) vaccine in the primary course and the quadrivalent diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio (dTaP/IPV or DTaP/IPV) vaccine and the trivalent tetanus, diphtheria and polio (Td/IPV) in the booster course. Altogether, five doses of polio vaccine are administered in the childhood immunisation schedule.

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