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What is Polio?

Polio, also called poliomyelitis is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by one of three related viruses. Polio is a very serious disease, which can lead to paralysis or even death. Once a person is exposed to polio, it usually takes about three to five days for symptoms to appear.

In about 95 percent of polio cases, infection from the polio virus causes no symptoms or serious effects. In about 5 percent of cases, the polio virus manifests in a mild form (abortive polio) with flu-like symptoms, in a nonparalytic form (aseptic meningitis) or in a severe form called paralytic polio. People who have minor or nonparalytic forms recover completely.

Paralytic Polio

Paralytic polio is the most serious type of polio. Paralytic polio causes paralysis. In paralytic polio, the polio virus invades the central nervous system -- the spinal cord and the brain -- and may cause weakness, paralysis, serious breathing problems or death. Paralytic polio begins like milder forms of polio, however, it usually causes severe muscle pain in addition to other symptoms. Paralysis usually happens within the first week. The individual may lose the ability to use of one or both legs, arms, and may not be able to breathe without the help of a machine. Recovery varies from person to person, but people who are paralyzed by polio will have some weakness in an arm or leg for the rest of their lives.

What causes Polio?

Polio is caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract.

Symptoms of Polio

There are many symptoms of polio and not everyone will experience all of the symptoms. They symptoms vary according to the type of polio the individual has. In mild polio, some of the symptoms are: headache, nausea, vomiting, general discomfort or a slight fever for up to three days. In nonparalytic polio (aseptic meningitis): the symptoms are similar to mild cases, with the addition of moderate fever, stiff neck and back, fatigue and muscle pain. The symptoms for polio and paralytic polio different. Individuals with paralytic polio experience tremor, muscle weakness, fever, stiffness, constipation, muscle pain and spasms, and difficulty swallowing.

How Is Polio Spread?

Polio can be spread by a number of ways. People who have not been immunized against polio or have a weakened immune system may contract polio from individuals who are receiving the oral polio vaccine. In developing nations, the polio virus is spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated by the polio virus. The polio virus may also be contracted through direct contact with infected stool or throat secretions. People are most infectious a few days before and after the onset of symptoms.

Post Polio Syndrome

Post Polio Syndrome is a 'second' disability affecting a large number of polio survivors.

Can Polio be treated?

Polio can be treated. Your doctor will prescribe medicine to treat you.

Can Polio be prevented?

Polio can be prevented . There is a vaccine available to prevent polio. All healthy children between the ages of six weeks and 18 years should be vaccinated against polio as part of their complete vaccination schedule.

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