How Does Polio Spread? | Was Polio Contagious?

Polio is a highly contagious infection, which is caused by a virus that attacks your nervous system. Younger than 5 years old children are more likely to get the infection.

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 200 polio infections results in permanent paralysis. The following countries are now certified as polio-free countries:

  • America
  • Europe
  • Western Pacific
  • Southeast Asia

Polio’s vaccine was developed in 1953 and made available in 1957 in the United States. After that, cases of polio have dropped in the US.

I had earlier shared  Physically Handicapped  I hope you read the post.

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Symptoms of polio

95 to 99% of people who get infected by the poliovirus are asymptomatic. This is also known as subclinical polio. Even without symptoms, people can be contagious with poliovirus and can still spread the virus to others.

Non-paralytic polio

Symptoms of non-paralytic polio can last from 1 to 10 days. These symptoms can be flu-like and can include:

Non-paralytic polio is also called abortive polio.

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Paralytic polio

About 1% of polio cases can develop into paralytic polio. Paralytic polio drives to paralysis in the spinal cord, brainstem, or in both.

Paralytic polio symptoms are similar to non-paralytic polio, but after a week, more severe symptoms will appear, including:

  • Loss of reflexes
  • Severe spasms and muscle pain
  • Loose and floppy limbs
  • Sudden paralysis
  • Deformed limbs, especially in the hips, ankles, and feet

I also wrote a article on  Covid Muscle Spasms also you can read.

It’s rare for full paralysis to develop. Less than 1% of all polio cases would result in permanent paralysis. However, in 5 to 10% of the polio cases, the virus will attack the muscles that help you breathe and cause death.

Post-polio syndrome

Polio can return even after you have recovered. This can happen after 15 to 40 years. Common symptoms of the post-polio syndrome are:

  • Continuing muscle and joint weakness

Read: Leg Cramp Covid

  • Muscle pain that gets worse
  • Becoming easily exhausted or fatigued
  • Muscle wasting
  • Trouble in breathing and swallowing
  • Sleep apnea
  • Low tolerance of cold temperatures
  • Weakness in previously uninvolved muscles
  • Depression
  • The trouble with concentration and memory

How does polio spread?

As an extremely contagious virus, polio spreads through contact with infected feces like toys. Sometimes it can spread through a sneeze or a cough because the virus lives in the throat and intestines. But this is less common.

This virus is extremely contagious, that anyone is living with the infected person; the virus can catch it too.

Pregnant women, people with low immunity, and young children are the more sensitive to the poliovirus.

You must read: How Can I Boost My Immune System? 

If you get vaccinated yet, you can increase your risk of contracting polio when you:

  • Travel to an area that has a recent polio outbreak
  • If you live with someone infected with polio
  • Manage a laboratory specimen of the virus
  • Have removed tonsils 
  • Have extreme stress, or you do strenuous activities after exposure to the virus

Was polio contagious?

Poliovirus was very contagious, and a person could spread it even if they weren’t sick. The virus was used to transpire from person to person in two ways.

People with poliovirus shed the virus through their feces. Therefore, the virus could spread to other people when they swallowed contaminated water or food. This is more likely in areas that have poor hygiene or weak systems to clean water.

A person could also pick up the virus after someone sneezes or coughs. If you got infected with a person’s mucus in your mouth or nose, you could become infected.

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How to diagnose poliovirus?

Your doctor will diagnose polio according to your symptoms. They will work on your physical examination and look upon impaired reflexes, back and neck stiffness, or difficulty in lifting your head while lying flat to diagnose polio.

Labs tests will also take a sample of your throat, stool, or cerebrospinal fluid for the poliovirus.

How to treat polio?

Doctors can only treat the poliovirus while the infection continues to develop. Since there’s no cure for this infection, the best way to treat polio is to get vaccinated.

The most common treatments include:

  • Bed rest
  • Painkillers
  • Antispasmodic drugs for muscle reflexes
  • Antibiotics for urinary infections
  • Portable ventilators to help with breathing difficulties
  • Physical therapy and corrective braces to help with walking
  • Heating pads or towels to ease muscle aches
  • Physical therapy to reduce pain in the affected muscles
  • Physical therapy to treat breathing and pulmonary problems

I also wrote a article: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Diaphragmatic Breathing

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation to increase lung endurance

In cases of leg weakness, you may need a wheelchair or other plasticity devices to help with walking.

Polio braces

Patients with post-polio symptoms can often benefit by using an appropriate brace. Braces can provide support, correct a flexible deformity, or relieve pain. Usually, braces are best to treat damage caused by stretching or surgery. 

It is made of a relatively thin plastic that slips into your shoe and goes up the front of your lower leg to stop foot drop. It also gives a spring to your step if you have weak muscles and even supports a weakened thigh muscle to help prevent the knee from buckling. 

 

Conclusion

Poliovirus is extremely contagious that can lead to spinal cord and brainstem paralysis. It most commonly attacks children under 5 years old. 

Cases of polio were raised in the United States in 1952, with 57,623 cases. Since the Polio Vaccination Assistance Act, the US has been polio-free since 1979.

While many other countries are also certified as polio-free, the virus is still active in countries with no immunization campaigns. According to WHO even one confirmed case of polio puts children at risk.

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