The term Polio was very much feared in the 1950’s where epidemics caused a lot illness.  Fortunately in North America and other developed around the world,  thanks to vaccination and improved sanitation, It has been virtually eradicated, although it still occurs in several countries globally. More specifically, Polio remains endemic(very present) in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Additionally, several  other countries  including Angola, Chad and Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan continue to report known or suspected poliovirus infections.

About the Polio virus

The polio virus is part of the enteroviruses family and is usually spread  by the fecal-oral route, in other words by ingesting or contacting  contaminated food or water. In many situations this is due to lack of adequate sanitation and the drinking of water polluted by fecal material.  Although in most cases infected persons experience mild symptoms,  or no symptoms at all, a small percentage progress to muscle paralysis. This is because the virus can infect the part of the spinal cord that controls muscle movement.

Symptoms of Polio infection

The incubation period for polio is generally 6 to 20 days and most polio infections (90% to 95%) are asymptomatic. When there are symptoms they include fever, fatigue, headache and vomiting. As the disease progresses,  severe muscle pain and stiffness of the neck and back with or without paralysis. Paralysis  occurs in less than 1 percent of cases. This is referred to as paralytic polio, with a  case fatality rate for ranging from 2% to 5% among children and 15% to 30% for adults.

Polio prevention

As there is no cure or treatment for polio and its complications, prevention is the best approach. Of course sanitation and better hygiene(clean drinking water, sewage systems) is important. However,  vaccines have really helped significantly control infections. There are two types of vaccines; an oral preparation made up of live but weakened poliovirus(attenuated). The other is a contains dead poliovirus products(inactivated or killed vaccine). While both are effective, the oral version, although is more convenient to administer, should not be  given to persons with weak  immune systems or to persons living with household members  who have a weak immune system. In North America, the inactivated or killed version is predominantly used. Your healthcare provider or public health agency can telll you which form is offered in your area. The polio vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunization schedule.

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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.