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Most of us would have heard of the disease called poliomyelitis, commonly called polio. This is a very contagious disease that is caused by a virus called poliovirus that affects the nervous system.
It is the young children below 5 years of age who are prone to get affected by this virus. There are 3 types of polio viruses: Type 1 is also called Brunhilde, Type 2 virus is also called Lansing and Type 3 virus is otherwise called Leon.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 200 polio infections usually result in permanent paralysis.
Today, many countries are working towards the eradication of polio by introducing polio vaccination as a mandatory dosage in the vaccination chart during childhood.
Polio vaccine was introduced in 1953 and made available since 1957. After the availability of this vaccine in the market, polio cases have come down in many countries.
It is glad to know that some of the countries today are certified as polio-free. America, Europe, Western Pacific and Southeast Asia are some among them.
Although polio is a deadly disease and can cause paralysis and death, most of the people who are infected by the poliovirus don't become sick and are never even aware that they are infected with the virus. Also, there is no known cure or treatment for polio.
Doctors can only treat the symptoms while the infection runs its course. Hence, it is very vital to know about the polio symptoms and how to prevent polio.
Here are some symptoms of different types of polio that everyone should know about.
There are about 1 percent of the polio infections that develop into paralytic polio. It leads to paralysis in the spinal cord, called the spinal polio or paralysis of the brainstem, called the bulbar polio or paralysis of both, called the bulbospinal polio.
Initial symptoms of paralytic and non-paralytic polio are almost the same. It is after about a week that you start seeing more severe conditions in paralytic polio. Some of these symptoms are:
- Loss of reflexes
- Severe spasms and muscular pain
- Sudden paralysis, which could be temporary or permanent
- Loose and floppy limbs, sometimes on just one side of the body
- Deformed limbs, especially the hips, ankles and feet
It is very rare where there have been cases of full paralysis. Only less than 1 percent of polio attacks result in permanent paralysis. In 5 to 10 percent of polio paralysis cases, the virus might attack the muscles that help you to breathe, thereby resulting in death.
The signs and symptoms of non-paralytic polio can last from 1 to 10 days. This is also called abortive polio, a polio that does not lead to paralysis. This type of polio usually causes mild, flu-like signs and symptoms, which resemble any other viral illnesses. Some of the common symptoms of non-paralytic polio, which last for about 10 days are:
- Sore throat
- Back pain or stiffness of the back
- Neck pain or stiffness of the neck
- Pain or stiffness in the arms or legs
- Muscle weakness or tenderness
Post-polio syndrome is a cluster of disabling signs and symptoms that occur in many people after several years, probably 15 to 35 years after they have had a polio attack. Some of the common symptoms in such cases could be:
- Progressive muscle or joint weakness and pain
- Breathing or swallowing problems
- Depression or mood swings
- Decreased tolerance of cold temperatures
- Muscle atrophy
- General fatigue and exhaustion even after doing minimal activities
- Sleep-related breathing disorders
The best way to avoid polio disease is to give appropriate vaccination during the childhood itself, as prescribed by the doctor. Ensure that you check with your doctor for recommendations on polio vaccination, before you travel to any other part of the world. If everyone is aware of polio immunization, it can be easily eradicated.