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Key Information About Polio

Updated on September 14, 2019
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Srikanth is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life.

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a serious infectious disease that can cause permanent paralysis.

The word poliomyelitis comes from the Greek words “polio,” meaning gray, and “myelon,” meaning spinal cord.

Cases due to wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then, to 33 reported cases in 2018.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons | Source

British doctor Michael Underwood provided the first clinical description of polio in 1789.

Causes

Polio is caused by poliovirus, which consists of an RNA genome enclosed in a protein shell called a capsid.

There are 3 serotypes of wild poliovirus type 1, type 2, and type 3 each with a slightly different capsid protein.

Polio is spread mainly by person-to-person contact. This crippling disease also spreads through contact with infected feces.

Sometimes it can spread through a sneeze or a cough, as the virus lives in the throat and the intestines.

People are most contagious right before symptoms start and soon after they appear.

Vaccine-derived type 2 poliovirus continues to circulate and cause paralytic polio. Globally, 104 polio cases due to this virus occurred in 2018, which was three times the number of cases due to wild viruses not derived from the vaccine.

Poliovirus

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Wikimedia Commons | Source

Symptoms

Polio can be classified as occurring with or without symptoms. About 95 percent of all cases are asymptomatic, and between 4 and 8 percent of cases are symptomatic.

About 4 percent of infected people have minor symptoms like fever, muscle weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Around 2 percent develop severe muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and back. Less than 1 percent result in paralysis.

Complications

Polio can result in permanent disability. It can also cause death, usually by paralyzing the muscles used for breathing.

Up to 20 million polio survivors around the world face the threat of new disabilities 15 to 40 years after their original illness, which could leave them using wheelchairs or ventilators for the rest of their lives.

Diagnosis

Along with a complete physical exam and medical history, cultures of the throat and stool are most commonly used to diagnose this potentially deadly disease.

Treatment

There are currently no effective pharmaceutical treatments that can stop deterioration or reverse the deficits caused by the syndrome itself.

Supportive treatments include analgesics, portable ventilators and moderate exercise.

People with polio are often treated by a team of different healthcare professionals working together.

Prevention

On March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against polio.

Salk inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), which is given by injection, or the Sabin live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is given by mouth, are used to prevent polio.

The trivalent vaccine that is used in the eradication effort is an infectious vaccine. The vaccine is ingested, the viruses replicate in the intestine, and immunity develops.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons | Source

Unfortunately polio is making a troubling comeback in countries like Pakistan, and it is being driven by some of the same forces spreading measles in the United States.

Have you vaccinated your child against polio?

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Summary

Polio is a serious disease.

It spreads through contact with infected feces.

Less than 1 percent of people infected by poliovirus suffer paralysis.

Polio can kill.

It is possible to prevent polio.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

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    • srirad0675 profile imageAUTHOR

      Srikanth R 

      3 months ago

      Thank you.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      3 months ago

      An interesting article giving an informative insight in polio.

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