Tag Archives: Polio

Polio Causes, Treatment, and Medications

Polio: Causes, Treatment, and Medications

Polio is an infection also known as poliomyelitis. This is a highly infectious viral infection that largely affects children under 5 years of age. Polio can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, or even death.

The last case of naturally occurring polio was in the U.S in 1979. At present, even with a global effort to wipe out polio, it continues to affect children and adults in parts of Asia and Africa. Adults who have been vaccinated planning to travel to a place where polio is happening must have a booster dose of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV).

What Causes Polio?

Polio is caused by a virus called poliovirus. The virus enters the body through the nose or mouth, getting into the respiratory and digestive systems. It reproduces in the intestines and throat. From there, it can enter the bloodstream which can also attack the nervous system. It is the nerve network that helps the brain communicate with the rest of the body. 

Signs and Symptoms of Polio

Even though polio can cause paralysis or death, the majority of people who are infected don’t get sick and are not aware that they have been infected.

Non-paralytic polio

Some people who develop symptoms contract a type of polio that does not lead to paralysis. This usually causes flu-like symptoms which can last up to 10 days:

  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Stiffness in the legs or arms
  • Muscle weakness

Paralytic syndrome

This form of the disease is rare. The first signs and symptoms are headache and fever often imitate those of non-paralytic polio. Within a week, you may develop:

  • Severe muscle weakness or aches
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Floppy or lose limbs

Post-polio syndrome

This affects several people years after having polio and also a cluster of restricting symptoms. Common signs and symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Progressive joint or muscle pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Swallowing problems
  • Muscle wasting
  • Decreased tolerance of cold temperature
  • Sleep-related breathing problems

Risk Factors of Having Polio

The following are the listed factors of getting the disease:

Areas affected by the condition:

  • India
  • Nigeria
  • Egypt
  • Pakistan
  • Afghanistan

People who are at risk:

People living in areas with limited access to running water often contract polio from drinking water contaminated by infected human waste. People with a weakened immune system and pregnant women as well as young children are the most susceptible to the poliovirus.

A higher risk of contracting polio if you have not been vaccinated and you also:

  • Have extreme stress activity after exposure to the virus
  • Have tonsils removed
  • Take care of or live with someone infected with polio
  • Travel to an area that has a recent polio outbreak
  • Handle a laboratory specimen of the virus

Safety Precautions

Vaccines are the main way to prevent polio. However, other methods of limiting the spread of this infection:

  • Checking with a medical professional that your vaccinations are current.
  • Avoiding food or beverages that may have been contaminated by a person with poliovirus.
  • Being sure to receive any necessary booster dosages of the vaccine.
  • Washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizer when soap is not available.
  • Making sure you only touch the nose, mouth, or eyes with clean hands.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick including kissing, hugging, and sharing utensils.
  • Covering the mouth while coughing or sneezing.

Treating Polio

Doctors can only treat the symptoms while the infection runs its course. But since there’s no cure, the best way to treat polio is to prevent it with vaccinations. The most common supportive treatments include:

  • Physical therapy or corrective braces to help with walking
  • Warm towels or heating pads to ease muscle spasms or aches
  • Bed rest
  • Portable ventilators to help with breathing
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation to increase lung endurance
  • Physical therapy to address breathing and pulmonary problems
  • Physical therapy to treat pain in the affected muscles

In advanced cases of leg weakness, you may need a wheelchair or other mobility device. 

Medications for Polio