Poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio, is a highly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus.
It primarily affects children under 5 years of age.
The virus invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.
The disease is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the fecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle such as contaminated water or food.
Symptoms of Poliomyelitis
The symptoms of polio differ from case to case.
Many of the infected people do not show any symptoms.
However, about 5% of people with the poliovirus get a mild version of the disease called abortive poliomyelitis, which leads to flu-like symptoms that last 2 to 3 days.
These include fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, stomachache, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
A more severe form of the disease, called nonparalytic polio, affects about 1% of those infected.
While the illness lasts longer than a few days, it doesn’t cause paralysis.
Besides having more-severe flu-like symptoms, nonparalytic polio symptoms may include neck pain or stiffness, aches or stiffness in the arms or legs, and severe headache.
The most serious form of the disease, paralytic polio, is rare.
The disease begins much like nonparalytic polio but progresses to more-severe signs and symptoms, including intense pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, tingling or pricking sensations, muscles spasms or twitching, and muscles weakness progressing to a limp paralysis.
Causes and Risk Factors
The poliovirus spreads through direct contact with an infected person, consuming contaminated food and water, contact with infected feces, and inhaling droplets from coughs or sneezes of an infected person.
The risk factors include lack of immunization against polio and travel to an area that has had a polio outbreak (without being vaccinated).
Poor sanitary conditions also increase the risk.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Physical examination is done to check for abnormal reflexes, back and neck stiffness, and difficulty in lifting the head or neck.
Culture tests and blood tests are also conducted.
There is no treatment available for polio. The aim is to prevent or reduce the symptoms.
Medication for polio includes Ibuprofen (Analgesics: These are used to reduce the pain in muscles and ease headaches) and Penicillin (Antibiotics: To treat infections).
Physical therapy, including moderate exercises to maintain muscle function, is also recommended.
There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented.
Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.
There are two vaccines available: oral polio vaccine and inactivated polio vaccine.
Both are effective and safe, and both are used in different combinations worldwide, depending on local epidemiological and programmatic circumstances, to ensure the best possible protection to populations can be provided.
The global effort to eradicate polio has been largely successful, with the incidence of polio worldwide reduced by 99% since 1988.
However, as long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio.
Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in a global resurgence of the disease.
Therefore, it is crucial to continue vaccination efforts and maintain high levels of vigilance until the disease is completely eradicated.