Poliomyelitis (polio)

Polio is a disease that has been eradicated in Belgium, yet it is still rife in other parts of the world. For as long as the poliovirus circulates, unvaccinated children, from any country of origin, will run the risk of contracting polio. There is no treatment against polio, vaccination is the only means of prevention.

What is poliomyelitis?

Poliomyelitis, commonly known as “polio”, is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by polioviruses. 

The virus is transmitted from person to person, essentially by ingesting food or water contaminated by faeces and more rarely by the droplets of saliva emitted during bouts of coughing or sneezing. 

After having multiplied in the throat and the intestine, the virus can invade the central nervous system and cause paralysis (Acute Flaccid Paralysis), most commonly in the lower limbs.

There is no treatment for polio. Vaccination is the only means of prevention.

The “Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018” aims to obtain certification for the eradication of poliomyelitis worldwide by 2018. 

DID YOU KNOW? A person can carry the virus without presenting any symptoms: these are called “healthy carriers”. The poliovirus can be present in the stools and saliva of a healthy carrier. The healthy carrier can therefore transmit polio. 

Different types of poliovirus

A distinction is made between wild polioviruses (type 1, 2 or 3) and vaccine-derived polioviruses.

Vaccine-derived polioviruses are polioviruses derived from strains contained in the oral vaccines against polio that have developed genetic mutations and which can once again cause paralysis. 

Sciensano centralises and analyses data related to Acute Flaccid Paralysis and enteroviruses. 

QR code

QR code for this page URL


Peer-reviewed publications

There are currently no publications associated to this health topic


There are currently no events associated to this health topic

In the media

There are currently no media associated to this health topic