Polio : Symptoms, Causes, Prevention And Cure
It is important to be aware of polio symptoms. Despite Africa being declares polio frees, measures like vaccinations ensure that an outbreak doesn't occur again.
Polio, also known as poliomyelitis is an infectious disease that is easily spread among children below the age of five. The chief among polio symptoms is paralysis, because of the virus’ ability to attack the nervous system. The virus is known as poliovirus, and its severe form it is fatal. The only three countries in the world where there are still reported cases of polio are Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In August, Nigeria recorded three years of no reported cases of polio. This brings Nigeria closer to be declared polio-free by the World Health Organisation.
We will get to it in more finer details, but meanwhile, here are a few facts about polio you should know.
- Half of the people who have polio develop post-polio syndrome.
- If you or your child catch the poliovirus, there’s no cure. Medical treatment only reduces the symptoms.
- People who are more at risk of catching the poliovirus are young children, pregnant women, and people who are taking care of polio patients.
- To prevent you or your child from contracting poliovirus, take the vaccination. It is free across the country.
- To diagnose polio medical observation is needed and tests to detect the virus.
With polio infected people, some may get symptoms, while others won’t get any at all. 72 out of 100 people will have no symptoms of the disease. And the ratio for people who will get symptoms stands at 1 out 4. They get flu-like symptoms that go away on their own within five days. They include:
- Stomach ache
- Sore throat
- Back and neck pain
There’s a percentage of polio infected people who get more serious symptoms that affect the spinal cord and brain. They include:
- Meningitis: Symptoms of meningitis show up when the membranes surrounding the brain are inflamed. I out of 25 polio infected people will get meningitis as a severe symptom.
- Paralysis: The inability to move some parts of your body is known as paralysis. This symptom occurs in 1 out of 200 people with the virus.
- Paresthesia: The feeling of needle-like sensations usually in your arms and feet. These sensations can occur in other parts of the body, too.
The most severe symptom of poliovirus is paralysis, which can be fatal. Or leave the patient with a permanent disability. Polio infected people whose muscles are affected mostly die because it affects their breathing. This occurs in 2 out of 100 people. Also, children are not left out. After recovery they can develop post-polio syndrome years later as adults, causing weakness or paralysis.
Post-polio usually occurs in people towards the age of forty. People who have suffered from polio as children. And the symptoms only progress with time. Symptoms include:
- Fatigue for no reason
- Memory and concentration problems
- Muscle pain and weakness that worsens with time
- Loss of muscle mass
- Mood swings
- Breathing problems
- Issues with swallowing
Polio is caused by a virus known as poliovirus, which can easily and quickly spread from person to person. The virus can be contracted through touch, food, or traces of faeces in the water. Because of this, areas with poor maintenance of hygiene are most likely to experience a faster spread of the virus.
Unfortunately, what is tricky about the poliovirus is that most times you never see it coming. Other viral diseases bring with them clear cut symptoms that put everyone on high alert, giving them time to put up safety measures. But not poliovirus. Not always at least. Most times the carrier of the virus has no symptoms. So when he passes it on he is not even aware. Neither is the person who is contracting it.
Consequently, when the virus enters the body it attacks the cells in the throat and intestines. After some time in the intestines, it moves to other areas, then to the bloodstream where it has easy movement to the rest of the body.
For the prevention of polio, countries use two forms of vaccines developed from inactive poliovirus and weakened form of poliovirus. The vaccines include inactivated poliovirus (IPV) and oral polio vaccine (OPV). IPV is administered to young children, starting from eight weeks after birth until they are 4 to 6 years old. It is highly recommended that you take the vaccinations, as it provides immunity against the virus.
However, other preventive measures can help limit the spread of the virus. They include:
- Checking with a health expert from time to time if your vaccinations are current.
- Washing your hands regularly.
- Using hand sanitizer in place of soap when it is not available.
- Covering your mouth before sneezing
- Making certain you get the recommended booster doses of the vaccine.
- Not touching, hugging, or kissing people who have the virus.
- Touching your eyes, nose, and mouth only with clean hands.
If there’s an outbreak of polio in an area, make sure you take the vaccine or check to make sure they are up to date before travelling there.
Read more: What happens when you miss a vaccination?
Image Lead Credit: Africa Feed