Poliomyelitis, popularly known as polio is a disease that affects the nervous system, sometimes leading to paralysis. It is caused by the poliovirus and commonly affects young children. Polio has been successfully eradicated in all countries except three. Nigeria recently achieved polio-free status but lost it due to the insecurity situation that disrupted vaccination programmes.
Causes and Risk Factors
Polio is caused by infection with the virus; poliovirus. This is transmitted by faeces or saliva of infected people, through contaminated food and water or via materials, clothing or surfaces which might have come in contact with the infected faeces.
In most cases, people with polio do not show visible symptoms in the first few days. However, after a few days, certain symptoms begin to appear such as;
• Sore throat
• Stiffness in the arm and leg
• Back pain
In rare cases, polio leads to paralysis of the spinal cord and sometimes death. Symptoms of this kind is as follows:
• Loss of reflexes
• Severe spasms and muscle pain
• Loose and floppy limbs, sometimes on just one side of the body
• Sudden paralysis, temporary or permanent
• Deformed limbs, especially the hips, ankles, and feet
The diagnosis of polio begins with a physical examination of the body to check for symptoms such as stiffness in the body. A laboratory test is also done to check for the poliovirus in the patient’s stool sample or throat fluids.
There is currently no treatment for polio. However, the symptoms can be treated such as the use of painkillers for the pain, fluid replacement for that lost via vomiting.
Polio can be prevented with the use of vaccines. In Nigeria, the oral polio vaccine is given at birth, 6weeks, and 10weeks and 14weeks of life. Eradication is possible with increased efforts at making the vaccination efforts reach all areas. Booster doses are also given between 12-24months.