Polio is a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.
The poliovirus resides only in humans and enters the environment in the feces of someone who’s infected. Poliovirus spreads primarily through the fecal-oral route, especially in areas where sanitation is inadequate. Poliovirus can be transmitted through contaminated water and food or through direct contact with someone infected with the virus. Polio is so contagious that anyone living with a recently infected person is likely to become infected too. Although people carrying the poliovirus are most contagious seven to 10 days before and after signs and symptoms appear, they can spread the virus for weeks in their feces.