History, Treatment, Causes and Symptoms of Polio

History of Polio

The history of polio dates back more than 6000 years. There are several Egyptian mummies excavated, those that has malformed and withered limbs, which most possibly could have occurred due to polio infection. However, the first recorded illustration of this disease is found in 1834, when the first chronicled epidemic of this deadly disease occurred on the St. Helena island- a volcanic tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 2500 miles east of Rio de Janeiro.

What causes Polio?

Small RNA viruses are the cause of this disease. These viruses are a member of the enterovirus group which belongs to Picornavirus family. There are mainly 3 types of polio viruses (type 1, 2 and 3), out of which the type 1 is mostly responsible for the paralytic infections. It has been clinically found that these three virus strains are so much antigenically distinct strains, immunity to one type doesn’t protect us from the others. However, once immunity is established in all the three strains, immunity against polio viruses remains lifelong.
Polio viruses cause destruction of the cells in our spinal cord- more specifically the anterior horn cells.

How do Polio spreads and what are the risk factors associated with this disease?

Currently, WHO (World Health Organization) have certified Europe, Americas, India and West Pacific as polio-free zones. The biggest risk of polio, is not getting vaccinated within the right age. Very young individuals, pregnant females, immunodeficiency patients, caregivers of polio patients, lab personals who work with live polio viruses and travelers to polio endemic areas are most at a risk of this disease.

Like smallpox, polio viruses only infect human beings. This disease spreads by person-to-person contact. Polio virus lives in the intestine and throat and spreads through contact with droplet spread in a cough or sneeze and faces. Polio viruses can spread even when an infected person has contaminated any fluids or foods by tasting or touching them. Surprisingly, any individual can be a carrier and can transmit this disease even before they have developed polio symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of Polio?

It has been seen that a vast majority of polio infected patients show no or little symptoms of this deadly disease. Nevertheless, those patients who show symptoms of this malady can be placed in any of these two major groups: Non-paralytic polio (Minor) and Paralytic polio (Major).

The symptoms of non-paralytic polio are:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Headache and
  • Muscle stiffness (neck and back)

These symptoms generally remain for 10-20 days before getting completely resolved.

The symptoms of paralytic polio also mimic the symptoms of non-paralytic polio for about a week. However, in case of paralytic polio increasing symptoms of spasm, muscle pain, loss of reflexes and flaccid paralysis occurs along with nonfunctional and inhibited breathing. In some cases, paralysis may occur very quickly, within a few hours, and patients may need assistance with breathing.

How is Polio diagnosed?

Definite diagnosis of polio is done by cultivating polio virus from the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid, stool and mucus, in addition to tests that detect antibodies directed against this virus.

At a primary level diagnosis of polio is done by physical examination and exploring patient’s history. Doctor’s try to find out if the patient has been or not been vaccinated, and had been in contact with people who showed signs and symptoms of polio.

Treatment for Polio?

There Are No Treatment That Can Cure Polio.

However, supportive treatments, early diagnosis and physical therapy can prevent musculoskeletal deformities that may occur over time. Patients often need extensive support and care thought out their lifetime, if infected with this malady.

Is Polio preventable?

It is very much possible to prevent polio with vaccination. Vaccinating young children is an effective way of establishing lifelong immunity against this disease.

Inactive polio vaccine is given at 2, 4 and between 6 to 18 months with another booster between 4-6 years.

For people travelling to countries where polio is still prevalent, travelers and tourists are prescribed to take a polio booster shot before they travel.

For people who provides care for polio patients, they are advised to use strict hygienic measures, when taking care of patients suffering from this disease.