Poliomyelitis is highly infectious and affects the nervous system, sometimes resulting
in paralysis. It's transmitted through contaminated food, drinking water, faeces
and swimming pool water. Symptoms of Polio
In most cases (90%), polio may cause no symptoms and no sequalae.
5% of cases are
termed 'abortive polio' three to 21 days after infection a slight fever and sore
throat may develop. There may be vomiting, headache and abdominal pain. The illness
only last 2-3 days.
In about 1% of cases, the signs of abortive polio are present
but the headache, nausea and vomiting are much worse. There may also be stiffness
of the neck, trunk and limb muscles. This is called nonparalytic polio.
polio occurs in about 0.1% of cases. Paralytic polio is very variable. It commonly
affects just one limb, a leg or an arm. However, it may affect groups of muscles
and may affect breathing, eating, bladder and bowel function. Paralysis may improve
over six months but some people are left with long term disabilities. The more severe
the disease (for example with breathing difficulties) the more likely someone is
to die from it. Causes
Polio mainly affects people who haven't been immunised. Most parts of the world are
now polio-free following successful immunisation programmes.
In the UK, routine immunisation
is offered to babies and booster doses are given to children before they start school
and after they leave. Travellers to countries that still have a risk of polio may
need additional boosters.
Vaccination is the only effective method of preventing polio.
There's no specific treatment for polio infection. Symptomatic therapy with painkillers,
for example, is usually all that's necessary when infection is mild. If the infection
is severe then admission to hospital may be needed, particularly if respiration is
Those with paralysis can be helped to regain function in the affected limb
or limbs with physiotherapy.