Lexi Welch

Identification and Definition

Poliomyelitis, or polio, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus that is spread from person to person. It can get into the spinal cord and brain, resulting in paralysis and deadly complications. Children should be vaccinated in four stages before the age of six.

History of Polio

Although polio was first described in 1789 by Dr. Michael Underwood, Egyptian carvings show images that suggest it has been around since approximately 1500 BC. Polio was a widespread illness through the 1900s. The first vaccination for polio was developed in 1955, and since then, many different forms of the vaccination have been created. Polio is currently eradicated in all but two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan.



Signs and Symptoms of Polio

Most people who get infected with poliovirus (about 72 out of 100) will not have any visible symptoms.

About 1 out of 4 people with poliovirus infection will have flu-like symptoms that may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain

These symptoms usually last 2 to 5 days then go away on their own.

A smaller proportion of people with poliovirus infection will develop other more serious symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord:

  • Paresthesia (feeling of pins and needles in the legs)
  • Meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain) occurs in about 1 out of 25 people with poliovirus infection
  • Paralysis (can’t move parts of the body) or weakness in the arms, legs, or both, occurs in about 1 out of 200 people with poliovirus infection


Transmission of Polio

Poliovirus is transmitted from human-to-human contact. It is most frequently spread through contact with fecal matter by means of direct contact and food/water contamination. It can also be spread through drops from coughing and sneezing. It can be spread right before symptoms appear and for one to two weeks after. Someone without symptoms can also spread polio.

Complications of Polio

Polio can cause severe paralysis in some people. It can also cause deformities in the hips, feet, and ankles.

Adults who seemed to have recovered fully from polio as children can develop muscle pain, weakness, or paralysis decades later. This is known as post-polio syndrome.

Additionally, polio can result in death from paralysis of muscles that help the person breathe.



Recommended Control Measures for Polio

Because polio still exists in two countries, it is important for children to be vaccinated against it; it only takes one person with polio to spread the disease across countries. Children in the United States receive a series of four shots at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and 4-6 years. Children in underdeveloped countries receive an oral immunization. The vaccination protects 99% of people who receive it.

Vaccinations for this disease should be mandatory everywhere in order to protect people from the spread of polio once again. It is important to ensure that this disease remains eradicated and to try to eradicate it in the two countries where the disease is still an issue.