Public Health Information


Covid information

  • Masks are not required on campus. 
  • If you have health concerns, we encourage you to wear a mask when around others, especially indoors and if local COVID-19 transmission risks are elevated. High-quality masks (such as N95s, KN95s, and KF94s) can reduce the risk of transmission.  High-quality masks worn correctly will significantly reduce the risk of transmission even if others around you are not masked.

You should test if you: 

  • Have COVID-like symptoms. If you test negative initially and your symptoms are ongoing, test again 3 to 4 days after your symptoms start. Many people will not produce enough virus to test positive until they have been symptomatic for several days.
  • Have been exposed to someone with COVID. We advise that you test 5 days after your last contact with a COVID-positive individual or as soon as you develop symptoms.
  • Have traveled or been off campus for break; test 24 hours before returning and 5 days after traveling.
  • Rapid antigen test kits are available at the Health Services, Freel Library, Athletics, Townhouses, Hoosac Hall and in the Campus Center. Each test kit contains two tests.  Yes, per the expiration date on the box, the test is expired BUT note that the date has been extended and the test is still valid till the end 2023. You can verify the expiration date At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests | FDA
  • You can also buy tests at area pharmacies or online.

You will need to isolate.

  • Isolate at home or other private off-campus space ie; your permanent residence, a separate room at a friend or family member's house, or a hotel, if you are able to travel in a private vehicle, without using public transportation or rideshare.  
  • Isolate in place (i.e., your room/apartment) on or off campus. This means you may need to isolate yourself with your roommate(s) present in your room.

How do I isolate?  

Depending on your symptoms and the specifics of your case, isolation could last from 5 days up to 10 days or longer.  MCLA is following the current CDC guidelines for isolation requirements: Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19 | CDC

  • Isolating for at least 5 full days following your positive result. (Day 0 is the day of your positive test result, day 1 is the first full day after you test positive.) 
  • Continuing to isolate until you are fever free for 24 hours or other symptoms have significantly improved.  
  • Students who are positive for COVID may go to the dining halls for meal pick-up but must wear an N95, KN95, KN94, or surgical mask. Do NOT eat in dining halls if you are COVID positive.
  • During isolation and for 5 days afterwards, wear a high-quality mask (a KN95, N95, or KF94) when outside your room; keep physically distanced from others whenever you leave your room. Wear a high-quality mask in any shared space in your private residence (such as a shared bathroom).  
  • Wash your hands frequently and wipe down surfaces in shared bathrooms and other common areas after use.  
  • If your bathroom has a fan, turn it on for at least 30 minutes after you use the bathroom.  
  • Do not visit with anyone, including friends or family, during isolation.  
  • You can stop wearing your mask on day 11.

General guidelines and expectations for students:

  • Students with suite bathrooms are encouraged to work directly with their roommates to determine a system of shared use during isolation.
  • It's important to stay in your room except to use the restroom, pick up meals, go to medical appointment, or to go outside for fresh air while wearing a mask. 
  • If you have to leave your room, wear an N95, KN95 or KN94 mask in shared spaces and maintain at least six feet of distance from others; avoid exposing others to the virus.
  • Do your best to avoid contact with roommates, housemates, and others. Use common sense: if you need to remove your mask in common areas (to brush your teeth, for example) do so quickly while maintaining a distance.
  • Wipe down high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, etc.) after contact.
  • Open windows as often as possible to allow fresh air to dilute floating viral particles.
  • Do not have visitors until your isolation period is over.
  • Tie up all trash, including cleaning supplies, tissues, masks, etc.

What is close contact? 

The CDC defines close contact as someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 2 days before they have any symptoms or test positive.

What do I do if I’m in close contact?  

Regardless of vaccination status:

  • Students should contact Health Services at 413.662.5421 if you are immunocompromised or have a high-risk health condition. 
  • Monitor your symptoms. If you develop symptoms test as soon as possible after symptom onset. 
  • If you have no symptoms, test 5 days after your last exposure to the person who tested positive.   
  • Avoid large crowds.  
  • Students may attend classes and activities during this time. 

What should I do if my roommate tests positive for COVID?  

  • You are encouraged to wear a mask as soon as you discover that you were exposed to Covid for 10 days. 
  • If you develop symptoms, test as soon as possible. 
  • If you have no symptoms and are at elevated risk because you have a roommate with COVID, you should test immediately (Day 0). If your test is negative and you remain asymptomatic, test 5 days after your last exposure and wear a mask for 10 days post-exposure.    
  • If you test negative, you may attend classes and activities during this time.
  • Do not invite any visitors to your room/suite if your roommate has COVID and is in isolation.
  • Avoid eating in your room as you will need to remove your mask.   
  • Do not share personal items with your infected roommate.
  • Regularly disinfect laptops, cell phones, door handles, counters, bathrooms, and any of the common spaces.
  • Wash your hands regularly, using warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Keep your personal toiletries in safe, clean spaces.   
  • Wash your bedding and towels.

How do I notify my close contacts after I test positive? 

  • Students are expected to notify their close contacts after they test positive. 
  • Notifying others of their potential exposure helps them keep themselves and their loved ones safe. 
  • Think about where you have been and who might have been exposed to your germs. Notify anyone you have spent time with where you were less than 6 feet apart for 15 minutes or more, going back at least two days before you got tested or started having symptoms through the time you started to isolate.

Mild COVID-19 symptoms include:  

  • nasal congestion and runny nose   
  • sneezing  
  • sore throat   
  • headache  
  • fatigue   
  • low-grade fever   
  • cough   
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea   
  • loss of taste or smell  

You can treat mild symptoms on your own, as you would a typical cold or flu. It’s important to:   

  • get plenty of rest  
  • stay hydrated: frequently take small sips of water, broth, juice, sports drinks, etc., even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid caffeinated beverages.  
  • use over-the-counter medication for fever, sore throat, and general discomfort.

Occasionally, COVID-19 will cause more severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention such as:  

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing  
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest  
  • Feeling confused   
  • Inability to wake or stay awake  
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone.
  • High fevers (greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)  

If you are experiencing any of these severe symptoms,  call MCLA Campus Safety 413.662.5100 or 911.

  • Please notify your professors that you have tested positive for COVID and for additional instructions on accessing classes and labs remotely during your isolation period.    
  • Complete the “Excused Absence form” located in the portal. It is located under the student academics drop-down. If you need more help after completing the form, contact Kayla Hollins or Patrick Connelly.

Students can reach out to MCLA Health Services at 413.662.5421 during normal business hours with questions related to COVID-19 symptoms.

It’s important to take good care of your mental health while you are in your isolation period. Even if you are alone in your space, you are among many, many people going through a similar experience. Connect virtually with friends and family, go outside (masked) for fresh air, and reach out to MCLA Counseling Services 413.662.5331.

Does MCLA require students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID? 

  • MCLA does not require COVID vaccination for students or employees. 
  • However, we strongly recommend that all community members continue to follow CDC guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination. 
  • Vaccination has proven highly effective in lessening the severity of illness, which is extremely important in a community that includes adults of all ages, including faculty and staff with small children and elderly family members at home.

Where can I get a COVID vaccine or booster? 

The following local pharmacies usually have vaccines and boosters. Be sure to bring your insurance card. Most insurance should cover the cost of vaccines and boosters but call ahead if you are not sure. 

  • CVS stores.  55 Veterans Memorial Dr, North Adams, MA 01247. (413) 664-8712
  • Walgreens 50 Lincoln St., North Adams, MA 01247. (413) 663-5270
  • Walmart Pharmacy 1415 Curran Memorial Hwy, North Adams, MA 01247. (413) 664-4004

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or, MCLA Campus Safety 413.662.5100   

If you are experiencing any concerning symptoms, call MCLA Health Services at 413.662.5421 Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:00 pm, to make an appointment or speak with a provider.

If you are experiencing any concerning symptoms and Health Services is closed, you may visit local community Urgent Care or Emergency Rooms.

  • Berkshire Medical Center - The flagship hospital for Berkshire Health Systems - BMC is a full-service level III trauma center. It is located at 725 North Street Pittsfield, MA.
  • North Adams Campus of BMC - Berkshire Medical Center's North Adams Campus provides numerous outpatient services for the North Berkshire community, including 24-hour emergency care, outpatient imaging, laboratory draw station, and more. It is located at the former North Adams Regional Hospital, 71 Hospital Avenue, North Adams.  
  • Southwestern Vermont Medical Center - SVMC is a full-service hospital providing 24-hour emergency care as well as imaging, laboratory and more.   SVMC is located at 100 Hospital Drive, Bennington, VT.
  • Berkshire Health Urgent Care - 550 East Street at St. Luke’s Square, Pittsfield, MA.   Open every day– 413-997-0930.
    SVHC Urgent Care ClearChoiceMD- 856 State Road, North Adams, MA Open every day.  413-727-8088
  • Bennington ExpressCare - 120 Hosp8ital Drive, Bennington, Vermont. Daily 8AM to 6PM (Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). 802-440-4077

Additional Information

Mpox (formerly known as monkeypox)

MCLA Health Services is committed to informing the MCLA community about health issues that may affect them. We recognize that there is risk for stigma or discrimination when communicating about a new disease outbreak. We all have a responsibility to reject any stigmatizing words or actions related to Mpox (hMPXV) virus and instead, share accurate information so that people can make the best decisions for their health and the health of our community. Mpox is not a sexually transmitted disease as it can be transmitted by any direct physical contact between someone’s rash, scabs, bodily fluids, and another person. This contact can include sexual activity and any touching of the lesions/rash or even touching of clothing or bedding that an infected person used.

What is Mpox?

  • Mpox is a rare disease caused by infection with the Mpox virus. Mpox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Mpox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and Mpox is rarely fatal. Mpox is not related to chickenpox.
  • Mpox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people.
  • The first human case of Mpox was recorded in 1970. Before the 2022 outbreak, Mpox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries. Previously, almost all Mpox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals. These cases occurred on multiple continents.
  • There are two types of Mpox virus: Clade I and Clade II. The Clade I type of Mpox virus has a fatality rate around 10%.
  • Infections in the current outbreak are from Clade II, or more specifically, Clade IIb.
  • Infections with Clade IIb are rarely fatal. More than 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with severely weakened immune systems, children younger than 1 year of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die.

Mpox symptoms

People with Mpox often get a rash that may be located on hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth or near the genitals, including penis, testicles, labia, and vagina, and anus. The incubation period is 3-17 days. During this time, a person does not have symptoms and may feel fine.

The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
Other symptoms of Mpox can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Headache
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

You may experience all or only a few symptoms. Watch for symptoms of Mpox for 21 days from the date of your last exposure. If you have symptoms, such as a rash, visit a healthcare provider.

How long do Mpox symptoms last?

  • Mpox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later.
  • A person with Mpox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
  • New data show that some people can spread Mpox to others from one to four days before their symptoms appear. It’s not clear how many people this has affected during the current outbreak. There is currently no evidence showing that people who never develop symptoms have spread the virus to someone else. 

How is Mpox spread?

Mpox is spread through:

  • Direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids.
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during Intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex.
  • Touching objects, fabrics (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the rash or body fluids of someone with Mpox.
  • Being scratched or bitten by an infected animal.
  • Mpox can be acquired by all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Mpox causes a rash.
  • Mpox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.

What to do if you are a close contact.

  • If you have been informed that you are a close contact of a person with Mpox, it’s important to take steps to protect your health and the health of others.

If You're a Close Contact | Mpox | Poxvirus | CDC

What to do if you think you have Mpox?

  • Seek medical care and avoid close physical contact and gatherings, including sex with others until you know for sure. Wear a mask and cover your rash when you need to go out for medical appointments. Talk to your partners about any recent illnesses or rashes they might have.
  • If you have a rash and think you might be at risk for Mpox due to an exposure or high-risk activities call MCLA Health Services at (413) 662-5421. Make sure to wear a mask and to cover any lesions you have with clothing and let staff know as soon as possible why you are there.

When to Get Tested

  • Currently, testing is only recommended if you have a rash consistent with Mpox.
  • If you think you have Mpox or have had close personal contact with someone who has Mpox, consider taking precautions and visit a healthcare provider to help you decide if you need to be tested for Mpox.

Where to Get Tested

  • Only a healthcare provider can order an Mpox test. The healthcare provider may take a specimen and send it to a lab for testing or they may send you to a lab for both specimen collection and testing.
  • Contact your local health department with any questions and to find out what the testing options are for your community.

What to Expect When You Get Tested

  • You will need to fill out paperwork before you get tested.
  • To get a specimen to test, the healthcare provider will use a swab to rub vigorously across lesions of your rash. They will take swabs from more than one lesion.
  • This swabbing may be uncomfortable but is necessary to get enough material to detect the Mpox virus from the specimens.
  • The specimens will be tested in a lab to see if the Mpox virus is detected.
  • Results are generally available within a few days.
  • While you are waiting for your results, take precautions to avoid getting or spreading Mpox virus to others.

How can you reduce your risk and prevent spread?

  • Avoid close contact (including sexual contact) with people who are sick or have a rash and their household/contaminated items.
  • Decrease the number of sex and intimate contact partners.
  • Avoid gatherings where people wear minimal clothing and have direct, intimate, skin-to-skin contact.
  • Be mindful of activities (e.g., kissing, sharing drinks and eating utensils) that might increase the risk for spreading Mpox whenever you gather with others.

Mpox Vaccination Basics

  • Mpox is caused by a virus that is related to the virus that causes smallpox. JYNNEOS is a 2-dose vaccine developed to protect against Mpox and smallpox infections. People need to get both doses of the vaccine for the best protection against Mpox. The second dose should be given 4 weeks after the first dose.

Mpox Vaccine Recommendations | Mpox | Poxvirus | CDC

Information adapted from:



When is Flu season?

  • While seasonal influenza (flu) viruses are detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons varies, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although significant activity can last as late as May.

How does Flu spread?

  • People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

When are infected people considered contagious?

  • People with flu are most contagious days 1-4 after their illness begins.  Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Those with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.

When do symptoms develop?

  • Symptoms can begin about 2 days (but can range from 1 to 4 days) after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with a flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.

What are the preventive steps to avoid the flu?

  1. CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. This season, all flu vaccines will be designed to protect against the four flu viruses that research indicates will be most common.
  2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  3. If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.  If you were prescribed “anti-viral medication” please take as directed.
  4. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  5. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  7. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects often that may be contaminated with viruses that cause flu.

How do I know if I have the Flu or Covid-19?

  • Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019.  Flu is caused by infection with a flu virus.  Please visit this link for more information. 

Information adapted from: CDC,  


What is measles?

  • Measles is a disease caused by a virus that spreads very easily from person to person.
  • It usually lasts a week or two. Measles looks and feels like a cold or the flu at first.
  • A cough, high fever, runny nose and red, watery eyes are common. 
  • A few days later, a red, blotchy rash starts on the face, and then spreads to the rest of the body.

Is measles dangerous?

  • Yes. Measles often causes diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia. 
  • Deafness, blindness, seizure disorders and other brain diseases with measles are less common. 
  • Measles can also cause swelling of the brain and death, although this is rare in the United States. 
  • Measles is most dangerous for children under 5 years of age, adults over 20 years of age, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

How is measles spread?

  • Measles is more easily spread than almost any other disease.
  • The virus that causes measles lives in the nose and throat and is sprayed into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks. 
  • It can stay in the air for up to 2 hours. 
  • Other people nearby can then inhale the virus.
  • Touching tissues or sharing a cup used by someone who has measles can also spread the virus.
  • People with measles can spread the disease 4 days before the rash begins until 4 days after rash onset. 
  • The first symptoms appear 10 - 14 days after a person is exposed.

Who gets measles?

  • Anyone who never had measles and has never been vaccinated.
  • Babies younger than 12 months old, because they are too young to be vaccinated.
  • Adults who were vaccinated before 1968, because some early vaccines did not give lasting protection.
  • A very small percentage of vaccinated children and adults who may not have responded well to the vaccine.

How is measles diagnosed?

  • Because measles can look like other diseases that cause a rash, the only sure way to know if you have measles is to get tested. 
  • Testing is usually done on a swab from your nose or throat, and on blood.

How can you prevent measles?

  • Get vaccinated. Measles vaccine is usually given in a shot called MMR, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. There are now many fewer cases of these three diseases because children get the MMR vaccine. Protect your children by having them vaccinated when they are 12 - 15 months old, and again when they are about to enter kindergarten. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93% effective.
  • State regulations require certain groups to be vaccinated against measles. Some health care workers and all children in kindergarten – 12th grade and college need to have 2 doses of MMR vaccine for school entry. Children in child care and preschool need 1 dose of MMR and childcare workers also need to have 1 or 2 doses of measles containing vaccine, depending on their age and other factors. A blood test or other laboratory result that provides evidence of immunity can also be used to fulfill this requirement for all groups.
  • People in high risk groups such as health care workers (paid, unpaid and volunteer), health science students and international travelers should have 2 doses of MMR, regardless of year of birth. Infants six months through eleven months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine prior to international travel.
  • Adults born in or after 1957 should have at least 1 dose of MMR.
  • Women who plan to have children and are not immune should get MMR at least 4 weeks before getting pregnant.
  • If you have been exposed to someone with measles, talk to your doctor or nurse right away to see if you need a vaccination. If you get the vaccine within 3 days (72 hours) after being exposed, it will help protect you against measles. People who cannot be vaccinated can be treated with immune globulin (IG antibodies) up to 6 days after exposure. IG may not prevent measles, but it does make the disease milder.
  • People with measles should avoid all public activities until they are well again. State regulations require anyone who catches measles to be isolated for 4 days after the rash appears. That means they stay away from public places like day care centers, school and work. 

What should travelers do?

  • Because measles is more common in other parts of the world, people who travel to other countries should make sure that they are protected before traveling.
  • All travelers 12 months of age and older should have 2 doses of MMR given at least 28 days apart or a blood test showing immunity.
  • Children 6 through 11 months of age should receive 1 dose of MMR before traveling. These children will still need to get their 2 routine doses of MMR at 12-15 months and 4-6 years of age.

Is MMR vaccine safe?

  • Yes. It is safe for most people. 
  • However, a vaccine, like other medicines, can cause side effects in some people. 
  • The MMR vaccine can cause fever, mild rash, temporary pain or stiffness of the joints. 
  • More severe problems, such as seizures, bleeding problems or allergic reactions are very rare.
  • Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, and most people do not have any problems with the vaccine.

Who should not get MMR vaccine?

  • People who have serious allergies to gelatin, the drug neomycin or a previous dose of the vaccine.
  • Pregnant women or women who are trying to get pregnant within 4 weeks should not get MMR vaccine until after they deliver their babies.
  • People with a severe immunodeficiency (e.g., from hematologic and solid tumors, receipt of chemotherapy, congenital immunodeficiency, or long-term immunosuppressive therapy or patients with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] infection who are severely immunocompromised) should check with their doctor or nurse before getting vaccinated.
  • People who have recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products should check with their doctor or nurse before getting vaccinated.
  • People with high fevers should not be vaccinated until after the fever and other symptoms are gone.

Should healthcare workers be extra careful about measles?

  • Yes. Healthcare workers who are not immune to measles can get measles and spread it to their patients, who might then become dangerously ill. 
  • That is why it is a state regulation that health care workers who do not have evidence of immunity must stay out of work from the 5th day through the 21st day after being exposed to measles or at least 4 days after the rash appears if they develop measles. 
  • Healthcare workers who do not have serologic evidence of immunity (i.e., positive blood test) or laboratory evidence of disease must have documentation of 2 doses of measles vaccine or are subject to Massachusetts isolation and quarantine regulations.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your doctor, nurse or MCLA Health Services, or your local board of     health.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at (617) 983-6800 or on the MDPH Website.

Information adapted from: CDC,  


What is Polio?

Polio (short for “poliomyelitis”) is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. It is rare in the U.S. Approximately 95% of people infected with polio will have no symptoms. About 4 – 8% of those infected will have minor symptoms such as fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, flu-like symptoms, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the limbs, which often resolve completely. Less than 1% of polio cases result in permanent paralysis of the limbs (usually the legs).

Polio may not cause serious illness in most people, but sometimes it can kill people who get it, usually by paralyzing the muscles that help in breathing. Polio is still common in some parts of the world. So, although there hasn’t been a case of polio caused by naturally occurring virus in the United States since 1979, there is still a risk of the virus coming into this country. 

Is polio dangerous?

  • Yes. Before polio vaccines were developed, thousands of people a year in the United States were paralyzed and killed by the disease.
  • Polio vaccine is helping to rid the world of polio. When that happens, no one will ever get polio again, and we will not need polio vaccine.

How is polio spread?

  • The virus that causes polio is spread from the throat and through stool (feces). 
  • People can also spread the virus by touch if they do not wash their hands after coughing or using the toilet.
  • Food and liquids can be contaminated this way. People who have not been immunized can get polio disease by eating food or drinking liquids containing the virus.
  • People with polio may spread the disease from about 1 week before their symptoms start until about 6 weeks after. Symptoms usually start about one to three weeks after a person is exposed.

How can you prevent polio?


  • Protect your children by having them vaccinated when they are 2 months, 4 months and 6 - 18 months old, and again when they are about to enter kindergarten. 
  • State regulations require children attending childcare/preschool, and those in kindergarten through grade 12 to be vaccinated against polio.


Most adults do not need polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children. But three groups of adults are at higher risk and should consider polio vaccination:

  • People traveling to areas of the world where polio is occurring.
  • Laboratory workers who might handle poliovirus.
  • Healthcare workers treating patients who could have polio.

How many polio vaccines are there?

  • Currently only inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which is a shot, is available in the United States. 
  • Oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is contained in drops that are swallowed, is no longer distributed in the US.

Are polio vaccines safe?

  • IPV is very safe. 
  • However, as with any medicine, vaccines can cause side effects in some people. 
  • A few people who get IPV get mild soreness where the shot was given. 
  • There is a very small risk of more severe side effects and allergic reactions (hives, difficulty in breathing, shock) but they are very rare. 
  • The risk of a polio shot causing serious harm or death is extremely small. 
  • The polio shot (IPV) has been used since 2000 in the United States. It does not cause polio.

Who should not get IPV?

  • Anyone who is allergic to any of the following antibiotics: neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin B, because small amounts of these may be in the vaccine.
  • Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to polio shot.

Should travelers get polio boosters before leaving the United States?

  • Travelers should check their records to make sure they are up-to-date on all vaccines when planning to leave the United States.
  • Polio no longer occurs in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, USA, Japan, China, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the Western Pacific region. 
  • Children should be up-to-date for their age on all vaccines before traveling.
  • Adults who are not completely vaccinated should get as many doses as possible before departure. 
  • Adults who have had 3 doses might need another dose before traveling to areas where polio still occurs, including developing countries in Africa, South Asia and some parts of the Middle East.

To find out if the CDC recommends a polio booster dose for a trip, call 1-877-394-8747 or visit either the CDC Travel Information website or the World Health Organization Polio Eradication website.

What is post-polio syndrome?

  • Post-polio syndrome tends to strike people 20 to 30 years after they first had the disease. (This syndrome is also called post-polio muscle atrophy or late effects of polio.) 
  • Symptoms include muscle weakness, cramps and pain, increased fatigue, and trouble breathing. 
  • Up to one in four polio survivors may suffer from this syndrome.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your doctor, nurse or clinic, or your local board of health (listed in the phone book under local government).
  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Immunization Program (617) 983-6800 or toll-free at (888) 658-2850, or on the MDPH website.

Information adapted from: CDC,