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The Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease that affects the nervous system . It is caused by a virus and its effects can be lethal; In just a few hours, the infected person can suffer partial or total paralysis of the extremities, although in certain cases the paralysis can affect the respiratory muscles, thus causing death.

It occurs especially in children under five years of age and the contagion is given from person to person, by the fecal-oral route; In some cases, polio can also be spread through contaminated food or water.

In recent years, great efforts have been made globally to eradicate this disease. Thus , the cases of poliomyelitis have decreased by almost 95% ; In the 1980s, around 350,000 cases were registered annually, while in 2016 only 16 cases were reported worldwide. Today’s polio cases are limited to countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

The origin of polio

The first recorded cases of this condition occur in the early 10th century . The virus affected children during the summer season; at that time there were several polio epidemics, some of which even devastated cities.

The vast majority of children managed to recover relatively quickly from polio, although many of them suffered permanent paralysis of their legs.

Types of polio

Polio cases can be divided into three main groups.

  • Abortive polio: it is the mildest type of all; sufferers suffer from symptoms such as fever , headache, and nausea. They are warning signs very similar to those of the flu or the cold, which is why sometimes a misdiagnosis is established.
  • Nonparalytic polio: initial symptoms are similar to abortive polio. However, as the condition progresses, others such as stiff neck or photosensitivity occur.
  • Paralytic polio: it is the most serious type of polio. Patients suffer a progressive loss of reflexes, as well as muscle spasms. Thanks to advances in medicine, the vast majority of paralytic polio cases make a full recovery. However, some people suffer paralysis or muscle weakness for the rest of their lives.

Causes of polio

The cause of this disease is a virus called poliovirus , which is part of the enteroviruses. This virus lives in the saliva , as well as in the mucus and feces of people affected by polio. Thus, the poliovirus enters the mouth of healthy people, thus accessing the digestive tract and the bloodstream.

Once the polio virus enters the bloodstream, it has a great multiplier effect inside the cells infected by it. A process that in the vast majority of cases occurs in the digestive tract. However, it can occur in other areas of the body, and can even reach the nervous system ; in this case, there is a high risk of developing diseases such as meningitis .

The multiplier effect lasts only a few days. Once finished, it is completely eliminated from the body. It is important to bear in mind that while the poliovirus is inside the body, the person affected by it is a source of contagion, whether or not symptoms are present.

What are the symptoms of polio?

One of the great problems that polio presents  is that in the vast majority of cases it does not present any symptoms until the disease is in an advanced stage . In addition, in the few cases in which symptoms do occur, these are usually mild, very similar to a flu or a cold; therefore, patients do not consider it necessary to see a doctor.

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The most serious symptoms of polio include high fever, severe headache, cold sweat, rapid heartbeat, partial or total paralysis of the extremities, and muscle spasms.

Diagnosis and treatment

Directly related to the previous point, the symptoms of poliomyelitis are not very specific, so the diagnosis of the disease is not easy at all. One of the first questions a doctor asks when they suspect polio is whether or not the child has been vaccinated ; if it has been, the risk of having contracted this condition is practically nil.

Once the medical history is established, he proceeds to perform a physical examination to detect any warning signs. One of the factors to assess is whether or not there is stiffness in the neck; If so, there is a high risk that the polio virus has affected the nervous system and the child will develop meningitis. In this case, a lumbar puncture is requested to confirm the diagnosis.

One of the most common medical tests in case of suspected poliomyelitis is an analysis , which allows to detect an infection.

Regarding the treatment of polio, the truth is that today there is no effective cure for this disease . The only possible treatment is prevention itself through the vaccine, which is administered during childhood.

However, if a child is infected with the polio virus, there is no treatment; only the symptoms can be treated.

How to prevent polio?

Prevention is essential to avoid contagion of the polio virus. Here are some factors to remember.

  • Hygiene: hygiene is the most important thing to avoid the spread of the virus. Frequent hand washing is essential, as well as avoiding fertilizing crops with human residues.
  • Vaccination: of course, the polio vaccine is practically mandatory to avoid this disease. The first dose is administered at two months of life; A second dose is administered at four months, and a third at twelve months. Finally, the booster dose, which is given at five years of age.

Aftermath of polio

Polio can cause serious damage to the legs of children . On the one hand, paralysis and deformations due to the retraction of the muscles. On the other hand, problems in bone growth, which produces a shortening of the limb that has suffered paralysis. And finally, circulatory and skin conditions; thinning and cooling of the skin.

Polio cases in the world

In the West, polio is a practically eradicated disease . Today polio cases in the world are limited to Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan ; In recent years there have been some cases in Somalia, a country where polio was considered to have disappeared in 2007.

The truth is that the eradication of the disease in these countries is very complicated due to the rejection by local authorities of the vaccine. The World Health Organization points out that if polio were to be eradicated from these three countries, it would be the second disease to disappear, in addition to smallpox.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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