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Polio - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Jan 05, 2022

What is Polio?

Poliomyelitis or Polio is a highly contagious disease which is caused by a virus. Polio virus attacks our nervous system. Experts on this disease say that children who are less than 5 years are more likely to contact this virus than other groups. According to the World Health Organization 1 out of every 200 people who have been affected with polio resulted in permanent paralysis.

The following regions in the world is now certified by WHO as polio free:

  • Americas
  • Europe
  • Western Pacific and
  • Southeast Asia (including India)

What are the types of polio?

The polio is classified into three categories as follows:

  • Abortive poliomyelitis: This is the mildest form of polio. In this minor illness, most of the cases are apparent especially young children. It doesn't indulge with Central Nervous System. After the exposure to polio infection, the person may suffer from mild symptoms and full recovery occurs within 72 hours.
  • Nonparalytic poliomyelitis: In this category, the victim would experience more symptoms than abortive but it will not lead to paralysis. In this case, meninges are infected. They are nothing but the membrane covering the spin and brain. The symptoms usually last for 10 days.
  • Paralytic poliomyelitis: This is the most severe form of polio that leads to permanent paralysis of certain muscle groups including leg and breathing muscles. In this severe condition, the virus spreads from the intestine to the brain and spinal cord that causes permanent damage to the nerves that control muscle movement.

What are the early symptoms of polio?

Poliomyelitis is otherwise called Polio is a dreadful and contagious viral infection that affects infants leads to infantile paralysis. It is accompanied by many symptoms and sometimes it may occur with or without symptoms. Even though polio causes paralysis and sometimes death, most of the polio victims do not find any symptoms and them do not even aware of the illness. Abortive polio is a type of polio which does not lead the patient to paralysis. The person who is affected by this type may last with the symptoms for at least ten days and the notable symptoms are :

  • Headache with vomiting
  • Stiffness and back pain, neck pain
  • Tenderness or weakness in muscles
  • Pain and stiffness in the arms and legs
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Meningitis

Paralytic polio is the serious type of polio that starts initially with the symptoms of headache, fever, and gradually shows other symptoms such as loss of reflexes, floppy limbs, and severe muscle weakness.

What are the causes of polio?

The poliovirus enters the atmosphere from the fecal matter of the infected person. Unhygienic and contaminated places are the root causes of the spread of the poliovirus. Since polio is contagious, direct contact with the infected person easily welcomes the illness.

Once the poliovirus entered into an individual, it starts infecting the cells of the intestine and throat. The virus remains in the intestines, before spreading to the other body parts. Finally, the virus moves into the bloodstream from where the entire body gets affected.

Why does Polio affect the legs?

Polio is caused by an infection with a virus. After the infection, Poliovirus reaches the CNS, and when it occurs spinal cord motor cells suffer inflammation and are destroyed. As a result, impulses fail to be sent to the muscles, followed by the paralysis of muscles, especially legs. Due to this, the legs muscles fail to undergo contraction leading to a condition known as flaccid paralysis which is the characteristic feature of Polio.

Summary: The Polio virus attacks the central nervous system directly as a result of which spinal cord motor cells are destroyed. It leads to failed impulses in muscles, leading to paralysis of muscles of limbs, especially legs.

Does Polio make one leg shorter?

Polio, which is a viral infection, affects muscles of arms or legs or muscles related to the breathing muscles, followed by a permanent paralysis of the same. The virus invades CNS and spinal cord motor cells and destroys them, due to which impulses fail to reach the muscles of the affected area leading to paralysis. One leg being shorter than the other, a condition referred to as leg-length discrepancy, is a possibility in this condition as a result of apparent scoliosis.

Summary: Polio has a paralyzing effect on the muscles of limbs. This is caused due to failed transmission of impulses in the muscles. This may lead to scoliosis, causing the unequal length of legs.
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What is the mode of transmission of polio?

This highly contagious illness holds a time of 10-21 days between the infection and onset of paralysis. The transmission of polio is primarily from the fecal-oral route i.e. the poliovirus populates in the intestines and spreads through the fecal matter. The virus starts to excrete intermittently to one month or more after the infection. The spread of the virus is exponential and the transmission is widespread during the onset stage of paralysis.

When sanitation is poor, there are more chances for poliovirus transmission. Live oral poliovirus can be discarded in the feces for six weeks and it may lead to infections in the unvaccinated persons. So, it is necessary to get vaccinated at the same time. Parents should handle the babies with hygienic hands and regular nappy changes are necessitated to save the babies from poliovirus.

How polio is diagnosed?

For diagnosis of poliovirus doctors generally perform a physical examination of the patient and try to find out if the patient is facing difficulty in lifting the head while lying flat, or is having any impaired reflex and stiffness in the neck and back.

The doctor can also advice a lab test of the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid, stool and sputum from the patient’s throat for determining the presence of poliovirus.

Does Polio still exist?

Polio is a viral disease that has no cure discovered so far, only prevention is possible. Hence, it is quite important to spread awareness for Polio vaccination so as to completely eradicate this disease. Though the number of cases has decreased to a larger extent since the year 1988, the risks of the disease still persist. Children still are at risk of Polio infection. Among the countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the ones where Polio infection still has been transmitted at a faster rate.

Summary: Polio is an incurable viral disease that affects children all over the countries. There have been many Polio eradication programmes till now. These have significantly reduced the number of cases, but the risks of Polio still persist.

What are the long term effects of polio?

The most noted long term side effects of polio are:

  • New weakness is experienced in muscles, both those originally affected and those apparently unaffected
  • Pain in joints and muscles
  • Rapid muscle tiring and/or feeling the whole body exhausted
  • Sleeping issues, dyspepsia and breathing issues
  • Unable to tolerate cold temperature
  • A combination of any of the stated symptoms may affect your routine such as walking, lifting, etc.

Can you walk after Polio?

Polio, which is a viral infection, affects muscles of arms or legs or muscles related to the breathing muscles, followed by a permanent paralysis of the same. The virus invades CNS and spinal cord motor cells and destroys them, due to which impulses fail to reach the muscles of the affected area leading to paralysis. This happens in most cases and legs are severely weakened or we can say paralyzed. Recovery from this condition usually depends upon the severity of the infection. In case, infection is mild recovery can even take place in a time period of about one to two weeks. But in severe cases, permanent paralysis can take place and the affected persons become handicapped for a lifetime or death may occur in such conditions.

How to cure polio?

As there is no medicine which can cure polio, the best way is to get vaccinated before the disease catches up.

Who invented the polio vaccine?

The vaccine for polio was first developed by Jonas Salk in the year 1952 and was made available all across the globe in 1957. Since then cases of polio has drastically dropped in most places, but this fatal disease is still persistent in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

What are the side effects of polio vaccine?

If you had a severe allergic reaction after the first shot, it is not advised to receive a booster. The common side effects of polio vaccine are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • redness and swelling in the injected site
  • Body aches
  • joint pain along with low fever

Serious side effects or it may be pointed as allergic reactions are:

  • Itching, wheezing
  • Paleness, hives
  • Swelling in the face and lips
  • Blue-colored skin
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Swollen tongue or throat
Summary: Polio virus directly acts on the central nervous system, leading to failed impulses in muscles causing paralysis of limbs. In severe cases, permanent paralysis may take place. Making the individual handicapped.
Conclusion: Polio, which is a viral infection, affects muscles of arms or legs or muscles related to the breathing muscles, followed by a permanent paralysis of the same. The virus invades CNS and spinal cord motor cells and destroys them leading to paralysis. Polio has no cure discovered so far, only prevention is possible. Hence, it is quite important to spread awareness for Polio vaccination so as to completely eradicate this disease.

References

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Written ByDr. Ashok Mishra MBBSGeneral Physician
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