What are the signs and symptoms of polio enteroviral infection?

Updated: Mar 17, 2021
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Clinical manifestations of enteroviral infection differ by viral type. Poliovirus syndromes can be abortive; nonparalytic; or paralytic, including spinal polio, bulbar polio, and polioencephalitis.


  • Abortive polio manifestations include fever, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, vomiting, and abdominal pain; neurologic symptoms are typically not reported

  • Nonparalytic polio symptoms are similar to those of abortive polio but more intense; also, patients report stiffness of the posterior muscles of the neck, trunk, and limbs

  • Paralytic polio is an acute febrile illness characterized by aseptic meningitis and weakness or paralysis of one or more extremities, along with weakness of one or more muscle groups

  • Spinal polio comprises a prolonged prodrome, with features of aseptic meningitis followed in 1-2 days by weakness and, eventually, paralysis

  • Bulbar polio involves cranial nerves, most commonly IX, X, and XII; patients accumulate pharyngeal secretions, have a nasal twang to the voice, and develop paralysis of vocal cords, causing hoarseness, aphonia, and, eventually, asphyxia

  • Polioencephalitis is principally reported in children; unlike in other forms of polio, seizures are common and paralysis may be spastic

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