Polio virus causes acute paralysis that can lead to permanent physical disability and even death. Before polio vaccine was available, annual epidemics of polio often left thousands of victims … mostly children…in braces, crutches, wheelchairs, and iron lungs.Development of polio vaccines and implementation of polio immunization programs have eliminated paralytic polio caused by wild polio viruses in the U.S. and the entire Western hemisphere.
In 1996, as a result of global immunization efforts to eradicate the disease, there were only 3,500 documented cases of polio in the world. However, in today's global economy, importations of wild polio virus are only an airplane ride away. In 1994, wild polio virus was imported to Canada from India, but high vaccination levels prevented it from spreading in the population.
If we were to discontinue polio vaccination in the U.S., immunity to polio would decline, leading to the risk of polio epidemics similar to those that occurred in the past.