World Polio Day: A guide to polio infection

World Polio Day is observed on 24th October each year around the world. The day is celebrated in the memory of Dr. Jonas Salk who was the first person to develop a vaccine for polio. The advent of polio vaccine led to the reduction of more than 90% of polio cases across the globe.

What is polio disease?

Polio or poliomyelitis is a dreadful disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus attacks the nervous system and can produce meningitis like symptoms. Polio poses a threat of permanent damage to some nerves which may further lead to paralysis of the arms or legs. In some cases, it may cause breathing problems or even death. Polio vaccination has so far succeeded in reducing the number of countries where polio is endemic, including India. However, people still remain non-vaccinated in some developing countries. Poor sanitation and poor hygiene promote the spread of the virus.

What are the symptoms of polio?

There are two types of polio- minor and major.

  • Minor Polio: It mainly occurs in young children and is prevalent of the two. Symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat, vomiting, lack of appetite appear three to five days after exposure to the virus.
  • Major Polio: It is more serious of the two and occurs after being exposed to the virus for 7-10 days. Symptoms of major polio include fever, severe headache, stiff neck and back, and throbbing muscle pain. Some people experience temporary abnormalities of skin sensation, muscle aches and urine retention. This form of polio commonly affects the strength of muscles of the legs, arms and abdomen.

Diagnosis of polio

A neurological exam is conducted on a person suspected of polio. Your doctor may suspect polio after analysing fever with limb weakness or paralysis that mainly affects one side of your body. The disease can be identified from throat or stool samples.

Polio prevention

Since there is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented through immunisation. Polio vaccination, given at different intervals and regularly, provides lifetime protection against the disease. There are two types of vaccine that can protect against polio – Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV) and Oral Poliovirus Vaccine (OPV). Oral vaccine is administered orally and the other one is injected in leg or arm depending on patient’s age.

Treatment of polio

People with the major form of polio may require additional treatments such as:

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