World Polio Day 2018: Know the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Poliomyelitis
Polio drops (Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

Polio or poliomyelitis is a highly-contagious viral disease, responsible for causing deformity and paralysis in the infected. The virus dwells in the throats and intestines of humans and is spread through person-to-person contact. The crippling disease is capable of intensive injury to the human nervous system. Although it only take hours for the virus to spread in the body, the damage can be lasting. October 24 is observed as World Polio Day worldwide to bring global attention towards this disease.

Poliovirus spreads from person to person, entering the human body through the faecal-oral route. Once it gains entry, it multiplies inside the human intestines and eventually enters the brain and spinal cord. ‘Don’t Give Polio Drops To Children Under 5’ Hoax WhatsApp Forward Spreads Fake News About Polio Vaccines.

Poliovirus can also be transmitted through the droplets expelled while coughing or sneezing. Handling objects that may have been contaminated with the bodily fluids of an infected person can also spread the virus.

What Are The Causes?

Since polio is contagious, it is caused by direct contact with the infected person. It is also spread through contaminated food and water. The virus multiplies inside the intestines and is shed through the faeces for weeks after infection. Poor sanitation and hygiene are factors responsible for the spread of polio. Polio-Like Rare Mysterious Disease Takes Over the US; 38 Kids Affected By Now.

Watch the Video on Polio

Who Is At Risk?

Anyone who isn’t vaccinated against polio is at risk. But mostly, children below the age of five are most susceptible. Will Polio Return to India? Contaminated Vaccines Raise Concerns That the Eradicated Disease May Strike Again.

What Are The Symptoms?

According to the Center for Diseases Prevention and Control (CDC), 72 out of 100 infected people don’t show symptoms. But one in four may have flu-like symptoms such as:

  • A sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • A headache
  • Stomach Pain

These symptoms of polio may last for two-five days and then go away on their own.

In more serious cases, where the virus gains entry into the brain and spinal cord, the symptoms may be more dangerous.

  • Tingling sensation (pins and needles) in the limbs
  • Inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord
  • Paralysis or inability to move the certain parts of the body

Paralysis is seen in every one in 200 people with poliovirus infection. And according to the CDC, anywhere between two and ten patients in 100 infected eventually die from the disease because the virus paralyses the muscles that help in breathing.

How To Treat and Prevent Polio

Throat secretions and cerebrospinal fluid are checked for the virus to detect polio. But since there is no cure for the disease, treatment mainly focuses on managing the symptoms. Painkillers, portable ventilators to help breathing and exercises are prescribed to slow down muscle damage.

Prevention is the only solution for eradicating polio. If children are fully immunised, the virus perishes without finding a suitable host to thrive in.

Vaccination ensures that 99 out of 100 children immunised are protected from the virus throughout their lives.

Polio drives in India focus mainly on two types of vaccine: OPV or oral poliovirus vaccine and IPV or inactivated poliovirus vaccine. OPV is given through the mouth as drops and is the primary preventive measure against poliovirus. Inactivated poliovirus, on the other hand, requires a trained hand and is used alongside with OPV to give further protection against the virus.

India has phased out its trivalent OPVs which gave protection against type 1, 2 and 3 polioviruses. But ever since poliovirus 2 has been eradicated, the OPVs are bivalent, which only target type 1 and 3 of the virus.

The global initiative to eradicate polio completely was taken in 1988 after the resolution of the World Health Assembly. The Pulse Polio Immunisation programme was launched in India in 1995. Ever since then, India worked tirelessly to eradicate the disease and in 2014, was declared Polio-Free officially by WHO.