Polio which is also called poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis is a disease caused by a virus that directly attacks the nervous system. It is highly contagious and is more likely to attack children below 5 years of age than adults. Polio is caused by poliovirus and may occur with or without symptoms. Its attack can lead to paralysis, breathing problems or even death.
Diagnosis And Symptoms Of Polio
Polio can be diagnosed by its symptoms and if a polio is suspected, tests are done to check for the virus by examining the secretions from throat, stool samples or cerebrospinal fluid. Though polio can be highly dangerous and can lead to paralysis or death, most sufferers do not show any symptoms of the disease. They do not look sick but they still can pass the infection to others. In cases of symptomatic polio (polio with symptoms such as muscle weakness, paralysis and nausea), the symptoms totally depend on the type of polio contracted.
Symptomatic polio can be mild or severe. The mild form can be classified as non-paralytic or abortive polio and the severe form can be classified as paralytic polio and is found in rare cases.
Also Read: Essential Vaccination Chart for Babies
Non-paralytic polio is also called abortive poliomyelitis. This type of polio is curable and does not involve the risk of paralyzing the patient. Its symptoms are flu-like and last for few days or weeks.
The symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Pain in the neck and back
- Stiff arms and legs
- Muscle spasms and tenderness
Paralytic polio is rare in nature and usually affects a very small percentage of people. As explained earlier, polio is a disease in which the virus invades the nervous system, in paralytic polio, the virus directly enters the motor neurons and replicates itself thereby destroying the cells. These affected cells are in the spinal cord, brain stem or an area in the brain that controls the movements - motor cortex.
Though the symptoms are similar to non-paralytic polio, more severe symptoms may appear like:
Paralytic polio can further be classified as follows:
- Loss of reflex control
- Severe cases of spasms and muscle pain
- Loss of control or sensing floppiness in limbs affecting just one side on the body
- Sudden paralysis which may be temporary or permanent
- Deformity in the hips, ankles and feet
- Paralytic polio might attack the muscles that help in breathing that might result in sudden death.
- Spinal Polio: The virus carrying polio in these cases affects the spinal cord and paralyses the limbs and causes breathing problems.
- Bulbar Polio: This type of polio affects the neurons which disables action like vision, tasting, swallowing and breathing.
- Bulbospinal Polio: This virus causes symptoms that are a mixture of both spinal and bulbar polio.
Also Read: Can my child get his missed vaccination at later date?
Causes Of Polio
Polio may enter into a body’s system through the feces of someone already infected. It is easily communicable in an unhygienic area through water, touch or by food. It is severe enough to spread even by direct contact with an infected person. The infected person might be asymptomatic but can spread this infection for several weeks through the feces. Once the virus has entered the body, the next areas affected are the throat and intestines. The virus remain in the intestines prior to spreading to other areas and once it has entered the bloodstream, it can spread throughout the body.
Pregnant women, people who are HIV positive and young children are more prone to poliovirus and polio survivors may also suffer post-polio syndrome.
Treatment Of Polio
Polio vaccines are injections recommended and given to all children under the skin or into a muscle.
There are 2 vaccines available to fight polio:
- Inactivated Poliovirus (IPV): IPV consists of several injections given to babies starting from 2 months after birth until 4-6 years of age. This vaccine is very safe and is made from inactive polio. This vaccine is mostly used in the US.
- Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV): OPV is made by a weakened form of poliovirus and is used in most of the countries as it is economical, easily administered and also helps in building immunity.
Apart from vaccination, other treatments include painkillers, antispasmodic drugs to relax muscles, antibodies of treating urinary infections, ventilators to help with breathing, physiotherapy, pulmonary rehabilitation etc.
Also Read: 5 things you should know about painless vaccination
Risks Of Polio Vaccines In Children
The IPV vaccine is recommended hugely over OPV as it offers better protection from the disease. However this vaccine is not recommended if your child has any allergies to the substances in the vaccines or has developed any allergic reaction to any earlier vaccines. Polio vaccination should also be avoided if your child develops bumps, swelling or itching on their skin, has trouble in breathing, goes into shock or loses consciousness.
It is rare that poliovirus reoccurs in a system in-spite of vaccination. The chances of recurrence are positive only in the adults who have never taken the vaccination before or people who regularly handle polio patients or work in a laboratory with polio virus.
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