A Review of Poliomyelitis

Poliomyelitis is also known as infantile paralysis or polio. This is an infectious disease that is caused by the poliovirus. About 2% to 5% of children with poliomyelitis and 15% to 30% of adults with poliomyelitis die. In rare occasions, the poliomyelitis is so severe there is muscle weakness that can result in the inability to move at all. In these cases, the muscle weakness generally affects the legs.

Those who experience mild symptoms of these diseases can have common cold symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, headaches, pain, and stiffness. Generally, these people recover within a few weeks. Those who have been infected with poliomyelitis as a child may see re-occurrence of the virus in terms of the gradual muscle deterioration and weakness. This will be similar to the initial symptoms of poliomyelitis.

Long before a vaccine was invented, infection with poliovirus was rampant globally, with occasional peaks and epidemics in the fall and summer in temperate regions. The cases of poliomyelitis in the United States fell rapidly after the approval of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in 1955 and the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) about a decade later. The last cases of acquired polio in the US took place in 1979. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) then eliminated polio in the Americas, where the last remaining wild poliovirus (WPV)–associated polio case was found in 1991.

    The poliovirus is usually spread through the oral ingestion of infected feces. Some examples would be eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Those who are infected with this disease can spread the living virus for up to two months. This infective disease can easily be prevented through a polio vaccine.

The CDC advises people to get polio vaccination boosters for those who are traveling to different parts of the country (especially third world countries like Nigeria and Pakistan).

    If you are infected with this virus, you will either have a minor illness that does not effect the central nervous system at all or you will get a major illness that involves the central nervous system (in these cases, the patient may become paralytic). In most people, they will suffer from mild symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, and other flu-like symptoms. In those whose virus takes over the central nervous system, they may experience neck pain, head pain, stomach pain, fatigue, and nausea. One in five of 1000 cases continue on to become a paralytic disease. This is when the muscles become weak, poorly controlled, floppy, and (in the end) completely paralyzed. This condition is called acute flaccid paralysis. Because this paralysis can occur in various parts of the body, the paralysis can either be categorized as a bulbar, spinal (the most common), or bulbospinal.

    During one of these rare occurrence of paralysis, the polio virus spreads along a specific nerve fiber pathway. When this happens, the virus first replicates inside the nerve, and that destroys the motor neurons within the brain stem, motor cortex, and spinal cord. This destruction of the neuronal cells produces lesions within one's spinal ganglia. As you grow older, the likelihood of developing paralytic polio increases, as well as the extent of paralysis.

    As on now, there is no cure for poliomyelitis; there is only vaccines that prevent this disease. Physicians use antibiotics that can prevent the virus from weakening of the muscles, exercise and a well-balanced diet, and analgesics for the pain. In cases where paralysis occur, many would need long term rehabilitation (some examples include physical therapy, occupational therapy, corrective shoes, braces, or in severe cases- orthopedic surgery.

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