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Poliomyelitis Symptoms & Diagnosis


If you experience any of these do not assume it is due to polio. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. Contact your physician if you experience these symptoms.

  • Minor illness
    • Headache
    • Fever
    • Sore throat
    • Illness lasts about a week
  • Major illness
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Stiff neck
    • Neck pain
    • Severe muscle pain
    • Muscle spasms
    • Muscle weakness
    • Paralysis
    • Usually asymmetric (affecting each side to varying amounts, or only affecting a single side)
    • Muscles become flaccid (loose, floppy)
    • Legs more commonly affected than arms
    • Muscles required for breathing may become paralyzed
    • Urinary retention
    • Decades later, previously stable muscle weakness may worsen due to postpolio syndrome


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include the following:

  • Throat swabs, rectal swabs, stool samples, or cerebrospinal fluid to look for the virus
  • Spinal tap —removal of a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid to check for the virus
  • Immunological tests—prove that the body has responded to the presence of poliovirus by producing antibodies designed to fight the virus

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2020 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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