About the disease
Polio, which is an abbreviation of poliomyelitis, is a viral infection that damages the central nervous system. This virus is most common in children younger than 6 years. This infection is highly contagious and can be easily passed from one person to another. In 1988 there was a global polio eradication campaign. As a result, incidences of this disease in the USA and Europe dropped drastically and nowadays there are almost no cases of polio in these regions. Nonetheless, certain Middle Eastern and African countries still suffer from this infection.
In 1952, the disease reached its peak when almost 58,000 people were infected in the USA. Following this epidemic, a vaccine against polio was invented. According to the World Health Organization, the most dangerous complication of polio is permanent paralysis, which affects 1 out of 200 infected people. 95% of people infected with polio do not have symptoms straight away. There are two main types of polio: non-paralytic and paralytic. 1% of all polio cases lead to paralysis of the spinal cord. It is accompanied by severe muscle pain and loss of reflexes. Non-paralytic infection can last up to 10 days, after which symptoms such as muscle pain and joint weakness may endure. These symptoms can be recurrent and appear many years after the initial infection.
- Joint pain
- Sore throat
- Pain swallowing
- During a general examination, the doctor will check the patient’s reflexes and ask him/her to lift their head while lying down, to establish whether they experience any muscle pain. The doctor will also examine the patient’s throat to look for signs of meningitis, which can cause similar symptoms.
- A cerebrospinal fluid test is also an efficient means of diagnosing polio.
- Sometimes prevention is better than a cure. The most effective treatment of polio is vaccination, which is a routine procedure for the medical care of young children. However, if someone has not been vaccinated against polio and becomes infected, doctors let the infection run its own course, alleviating symptoms as they arise. The patient is kept under close observation, to prevent complications. Special antispasmodic medications can relieve pain in the muscles and joints.