Risks and Severity

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 polio virus is in circulation, unvaccinated children, from any country of origin, will run a risk of contracting polio. There is no treatment against polio, vaccination is the only means of prevention.

Acute Flaccid Paralysis

In less than 1% of cases, polio manifests through paralysis, most frequently in the lower limbs: 

  • 1 paralysis in 200 is irreversible
  • among those people who suffer from paralysis, 5 to 10% die due to an insufficiency in the respiratory muscles when these become affected.

Non-infectious post-poliomyelitis syndrome 

A non-infectious post-poliomyelitis syndrome can develop in adults, 15 to 40 years after a poliovirus infection has occurred in childhood. 

The symptoms of this syndrome appear slowly and progressively:

  • muscle weakness and pain, occasionally with muscle atrophy (wasting) 
  • in certain cases: difficulty breathing and swallowing. 

We don't yet know what causes this syndrome; it may be due to the persistence of the virus in certain patients.

Risk of the poliovirus being imported

All of the non-endemic countries will continue to run the risk of importation of polio for as long as polio circulates in the world.

Cases of polio can arise after the virus has been imported, depending on:

  • the degree of vaccine protection (immunization coverage) in the population
  • the proximity to and the journeys undertaken to countries where polio is endemic
  • hygiene conditions. 

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

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