Polio

Polio Summary
Polio is caused by the poliovirus and is spread through person-to-person contact. In non-paralytic polio, patients experience mild flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headache, sore throat, and vomiting. In paralytic polio, symptoms include difficulty swallowing and breathing, headache, mood swings, muscle pains and spasms, and paralysis. There is no cure for polio, so treatment focuses on alleviating the symptoms. In 1955, a polio vaccine was developed.
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Polio facts

  • Polio is caused by a virus.
  • Polio has been around for thousands of years.
  • Polio is spread person to person by contact with infected mucus, phlegm, feces, or by contact with food and water contaminated by feces of another infected individual.
  • Non-paralytic polio is more common than paralytic polio.
  • There is no cure for polio.
  • Polio can only be prevented through vaccination.
  • IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) and OPV (oral "live" polio vaccine) are still used routinely to prevent polio.
  • Polio still causes significant illness in lesser developed nations.

What is the history of polio?

Polio is caused by a virus and has been around for thousands of years. There are even Egyptian artifacts portraying individuals with typical features of post-polio paralysis. Polio has been called many different names, including infantile paralysis, debility of the lower extremities, and spinal paralytic paralysis. We now refer to the virus and disease as polio, which is short for poliomyelitis and has Greek derivation: polios (gray), myelos (marrow), and itis (inflammation).

Polio is caused by a very infectious enterovirus, poliovirus (PV), which primarily affects young children and is spread through direct person-to-person contact, with infected mucus, phlegm, feces, or by contact with food and water contaminated by feces of another infected individual. The virus multiplies in the gastrointestinal tract where it can also invade the nervous system, causing permanent neurological damage in some individuals.

Most individuals infected with polio remain asymptomatic or develop only mild flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, malaise, fever, headache, sore throat, and vomiting. In fact, the symptoms, if present, may only last 48-72 hours; however, those individuals will continue to shed virus in their stools for a prolonged period, serving as a reservoir for subsequent infections. About 2%-5% of infected individuals go on to develop more serious symptoms that may include respiratory problems and paralysis. Currently, there is no cure for polio; only vaccination can prevent the spread of the disease, and although in the developed world it is almost unheard of, globally, polio continues to occur in limited locations in Africa, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Originally, international organizations believed it possible to eradicate polio by 2000, though this has been more difficult than initially hoped for.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/16/2014

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