What is polio?

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is an infectious viral disease caused by the polio virus that can affect many parts of the body. Polio was a global epidemic and a leading cause of disability until a vaccine was developed in the 1950s. In the Western world, the disease was mostly eradicated by the late 1970s, although it still affects developing countries (Source: PubMed).

The polio virus is highly contagious and is transmitted among people through saliva, feces, or person-to-person contact. People living in or traveling to areas of outbreak are susceptible to infection, as are those who have never been immunized with the polio vaccine.

Symptoms of polio are generally categorized by the three patterns of infections: subclinical infections, nonparalytic infections, and paralytic infections. Subclinical infections may not produce symptoms at all, and polio infection usually does not progress beyond this stage or cause symptoms. When it does, these symptoms are very diverse and range from flu-like symptoms, such as fever and sore throat, to breathing difficulty and muscle weakness leading to paralysis. The severity of symptoms depends on the body site involved, especially the brain or spinal cord (central nervous system). Fortunately, in approximately 90% of cases, the central nervous system is not involved. Without nervous system involvement, there is a 90% expected rate of full recovery (Source: PubMed).

Polio is a very serious infection, especially when the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is affected. Pay close attention to symptoms that suggest involvement of the nervous system, which can result in paralysis or may be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have the following symptoms, including difficulty breathing, swallowing, or urinating; fever for five or more days; sudden muscle weakness or weakness limited to one side of the body; muscle pain, contractions, or spasms; or stiff neck and back.


What are the symptoms of polio?

Symptoms of polio are generally categorized by the three patterns of infections that develop. These include subclinical infections, nonparalytic infections, and paralytic infections. Most people (about 95%) infected with the polio virus will not have any symptoms, although when symptoms do occur, they can be serious (Source: Read more about poliosymptoms


What causes polio?

Polio is a viral infection. Transmission occurs through direct person-to-person contact or through mucus, saliva or feces.

In some cases, the virus remains in the intestines, causing only mild, subclinical symptoms. If it circulates through the bloodstream and lymphatic system, it can involve the nervous system and potentially lead to long-term complications.

Both or... Read more about poliocauses


How is polio treated?

Treatment for polio begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. If you show signs or symptoms of polio, your health care provider may run tests on your spinal fluid to detect antibodies to the polio virus and perform throat cultures before developing a treatment plan.

Treatments for polio

The goal of treatment is to control your symptoms, and the pl... Read more about poliotreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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