Polio (also known as poliomyelitis) is a highly contagious disease that is caused by a virus that is known to attack the nervous system. Children younger than the 5 years old are more likely to contract the virus than any other group.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in the 200 polio infections will result in the permanent paralysis. However, thanks to global polio eradication initiative in the year 1988, the following regions are now certified that they are polio-free:
- South-East Asia
- Western Pacific
Symptoms and Signs of Polio:
It is estimated that around 96 to 99 percent of the individuals who contract polio-virus are asymptomatic. This is known as sub-clinical polio. Even without symptoms, people infected with polio-virus can still spread the virus and cause infection in others. There are two types of polio. Paralytic and Non-Paralytic polio.
Some of the non-paralytic polio symptoms are as mentioned below:
- sore throat
- vomiting meningitis
The symptoms of the paralytic polio are:
- severe spasms and muscle pain
- loss of reflexes
- sudden paralysis, temporary or permanent
- Floppy and lose limbs, sometimes on just one side of the body
- deformed limbs, especially the hips, ankles, and feet
How does the polio virus succeed in infecting someone?
As a highly contagious virus, polio transmits through contact with the infected feces. Objects like the toys that have come near the infected feces can also transmit the virus. Sometimes it can transmit through a cough or a sneeze, as the virus lives in the intestines and the throat. This, however, is less common.
People living in the areas with limited access to the running water or flush toilets often contract polio from drinking water contaminated by the infected human waste. The virus is so contagious that anyone living with someone who has a virus can catch it too.
Pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems — such as those who are HIV-positive — and even the young children are most susceptible to polio-virus.
How does the doctor diagnose Polio?
The doctor will diagnose polio by looking at the symptoms. He will perform a physical test and look for the impaired reflexes, neck, and back stiffness, or difficulty lifting your head while lying flat. Labs will also test a sample of the throat, cerebrospinal fluid, or stool for the polio-virus.
The doctor treats in any of the following ways possible:
- Bed rest
- pulmonary rehabilitation to increase lung endurance
- heating pads or the warm towels to ease muscle aches and the spasms
- portable ventilators to help with the breathing
- antispasmodic drugs to relax the muscles
In the advanced cases of the leg weakness, one may need a mobility device or a wheelchair.