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Poliomyelitis, commonly called polio, is an infectious disease. It is caused by 3 types of poliovirus. Polio is easily spread from person to person. The poliovirus is a virus that causes paralysis. But, most people who are infected with polio have no symptoms and a few have mild symptoms. Very few people who get polio develop paralysis. Since the polio vaccine was invented in 1955, polio has been nearly stamped out. In the U.S. There have been no known cases of polio since 1979.
Poor and developing countries do not have access to the vaccine. Polio is still a concern in these areas, especially for infants and children.
Polio is caused by 1 of 3 types of the poliovirus. It usually spreads due to contact with infected feces. This often occurs from poor hand washing. It can also occur from ingestion of contaminated food or water. It can also be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes infected droplets into the air. Those infected with the virus can excrete the virus in their stool for several weeks. People are most contagious immediately before the onset of symptoms and soon after they appear.
Symptoms of polio vary in their severity. Most affected people have no symptoms at all. This is called an inapparent infection. The other types of polio are abortive, nonparalytic, and paralytic.
The following are the most common symptoms of polios. However, each person may experience symptoms differently.
Abortive polio is a mild and short course of the disease with one or more of the following symptoms:
The symptoms for nonparalytic polio are similar to abortive polio. The infected person may feel sick for a couple of days then appear to improve before getting sick again with the following symptoms:
The symptoms for paralytic polio are the same as nonparalytic and abortive polio. In addition, the following symptoms may occur:
Along with a complete physical exam and medical history, the following tests may be done:
Specific treatment will be determined by your health care provider based on:
While there is prevention of the polio, there is no specific treatment for people who become infected. Treatment is focused on symptom relief. Supportive measures include:
The most common complication of polio is paralysis. This can lead to problems with breathing, swallowing, and bowel and bladder function.
Post-polio syndrome can occur many years after the initial infection. This syndrome causes muscle weakness and shrinking of the muscles, extreme fatigue, and pain in the muscles and joints.
Measures to prevent polio include:
In the U.S., the polio vaccine is recommended to be given at the following ages:
Polio can have various effects on your lifestyle, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Types of treatment and support can include:
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your health care provider know. Certain signs and symptoms should be reported immediately, such as:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.