Polio, short for poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious disease that has can lead to adverse effects. This virus is most likely to occur in young children, including newborns as well as pregnant women. Polio is a serious virus that can leave people permanently paralyzed.

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The World Health Organisation has made an initiative to have the disease eradicated. The UAE government has also made large efforts for all children to be vaccinated and stopping the spread of the disease. With that being said, let’s develop a better understanding of polio. 

What is Polio?

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Polio is a virus that directly attacks the nervous system. Children below the age of 5 are the most susceptible to the disease, and so early vaccinations are highly recommended. According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 200 people with polio end up with permanent paralysis.

Thankfully to global eradication efforts as well as technological advancements in science and medicine over the years, polio has been eradicated in the majority of all countries, and the UAE included. Thanks to wide access to the polio vaccine and the government pushing it, even low-income families have access to the vaccine. 

What are the Symptoms of Polio?

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It is estimated that 95% of people with polio are asymptomatic. This means that it is tough to suspect the virus in people, meaning that the virus can be spread quite easily as we don’t know who has or who doesn’t have the virus. There are two types of polio:

Non-paralytic polio

This type of polio can last from one to ten days. Symptoms include:

  • Cold
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • meningitis

Paralytic polio

The more serious type of polio, this is the second stage of non-paralytic polio and is very rare as only 1% of people with non-paralytic polio reach this stage. People will become paralyzed beginning in the spine and brainstem. 5 to 10% of paralytic polio cases end up in fatality as Symptoms include:

  • Loss of reflex
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain in joints and muscles and limbs
  • Sudden, temporary or permanent paralysis
  • Loss of nerves
  • Deformity in hips, ankles, and limbs

People who have ever recovered from polio, are very likely to have it occur the future again and can happen from 15-40 years after the first contraction. This is known as post-polio syndrome (PPS). The symptoms include:

  • Weakness in muscle and joints
  • Random muscle strains and pain
  • Difficulty breathing, catching a breath after exercise
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Easily becoming tired or fatigued
  • Sleep apnea
  • Low tolerance to cold weather
  • Memory trouble
  • Anxiety or depression

If you notice any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor, especially if you have had polio in the past. And even if you haven’t had the virus in the past, its important to seek medical advice as many of the above symptoms are also linked with other serious health complications. 

Causes of Polio

As polio is a highly contagious virus, physical contact is the main cause. Polio transmits through infected faeces. It can also be spread through coming in contact with an infected persons sneeze, cough and saliva. The bacteria of the virus can also commonly be spread on toys, cutlery, plates, and dirty surfaces.

People living in environments with poor hygiene are more susceptible to the virus. Low-income families with difficult access to clean water are at a higher risk. Polio is so contagious that if a person has it, everyone in the same household is at risk. Pregnant women, young children and anyone with a weak immune system are at a higher risk. 

Treatments

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Until today, there is no cure for polio. This is why we need to take extra caution to prevent polio. It’s also why vaccination is highly recommended. Getting vaccinated, especially for children, this will help you stay safe from polio as well as preventing the spread to others.

Since there is no cure for polio, doctors can only give you treatments to cope with the virus while it runs its course. Your doctor will most likely advise you to:

  • Get more bed rest
  • Painkillers
  • Inhalers and ventilators to assist breathing
  • Antibiotics to relax drugs
  • Heating pads for sore muscles and joints
  • Physical therapy
  • Crutches or a wheelchair for loss of mobility

How to Prevent Polio

The best way to prevent polio is to get vaccinations for children at very young ages. The UAE government has worked very hard in recent years to eradicate the poliovirus. The government has spent a lot of money to bring resources to help prevent the spread of the virus. If you’d like to learn more about the poliovirus, vaccinations or any other health concerns you have for your child, speak with your medical practitioner today. 

Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.