What is polio?
Polio is a contagious disease caused by an intestinal virus that may attack nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, and vomiting. Some victims develop neurological complications, including stiffness of the neck and back, weak muscles, pain in the joints, and paralysis of one or more limbs or respiratory muscles. In severe cases it may be fatal, due to respiratory paralysis.
How is polio contracted?
Polio can be spread through contact with contaminated feces (for example, by changing an infected baby's diapers) or through airborne droplets, in food, or in water. The virus enters the body by nose or mouth, then travels to the intestines where it incubates. Next, it enters the bloodstream where "anti-polio" antibodies are produced. In most cases, this stops the progression of the virus and the individual gains permanent immunity against the disease.(1)
Many people mistakenly believe that anyone who contracts polio will become paralyzed or die. However, in most infections caused by polio there are few distinctive symptoms.(2) In fact, 95 percent of everyone who is exposed to the natural polio virus won't exhibit any symptoms, even under epidemic conditions.(3,4) About 5 percent of infected people will experience mild symptoms, such as a sore throat, stiff neck, headache, and fever -- often diagnosed as a cold or flu.(5,6) Muscular paralysis has been estimated to occur in about one of every 1,000 people who contract the disease.(7,8) This has lead some scientific researchers to conclude that the small percentage of people who do develop paralytic polio may be anatomically susceptible to the disease. The vast remainder of the population may be naturally immune to the polio germ.(9)
Injections: Several studies have shown that injections (for antibiotics or other vaccines) increase susceptibility to polio. In fact, researchers have known since the early 1900s that paralytic poliomyelitis often started at the site of an injection.(10,11) When diphtheria and pertussis vaccines were introduced in the 1940s, cases of paralytic poliomyelitis skyrocketed [Figure 1].(12) This was documented in Lancet and other medical journals.(13-15) In 1949, the Medical Research Council in Great Britain set up a committee to investigate the matter and ultimately concluded that individuals are at increased risk of paralysis for 30 days following injections; injections alter the distribution of paralysis; and it did not matter whether the injections were subcutaneous or intramuscular.(16,17)
A 1992 study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, validated earlier findings. Children who received DPT (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) injections were significantly more likely than controls to suffer paralytic poliomyelitis within the next 30 days.(18) According to the authors, "this study confirms that injections are an important cause of provocative poliomyelitis."(19)
In 1995, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing that children who received a single injection within one month after receiving a polio vaccine were 8 times more likely to contract polio than children who received no injections. The risk jumped 27-fold when children received up to nine injections within one month after receiving the polio vaccine. And with ten or more injections, the likelihood of developing polio was 182 times greater than expected.(20)
Why injections increase the risk of polio is unclear.(21) Nevertheless, these studies and others(22-27) indicate that "injections must be avoided in countries with endemic poliomyelitis."(28) Health authorities believe that all "unnecessary" injections should be avoided as well.(29)
The most up-to-date information
on the polio vaccine
may be found in the book:
Vaccine Safety Manual