Acute Poliomyelitis (Polio)

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Overview

Poliomyelitis, or Polio, is a contagious viral disease that has been eradicated almost worldwide. Unfortunately, Pakistan is one of the few countries in which it still persists. It can be a lethal condition of nerve paralysis which leads to immobility, difficulty in breathing, and even death.

Causes

People infected with this virus can pass it out via their feces; direct contact with these carriers’ feces or ingestion of contaminated food or drink can also spread the virus. Unvaccinated individuals, especially kids under the age of five, are at the most risk.

Symptoms

Sometime, people may get infected with polio virus and not experience any symptoms at all. In other cases, flu-like symptoms may arise which include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Body pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting

The most severe form of polio is rare and attacks the nerves. It may begin with harmless flu-like symptoms but can progress to:

  • Flaccid (floppy) paralysis
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of muscle reflexes

People suffering from this disease for years can also experience a condition called Post-Polio Syndrome in which muscle deformity or disability, wasting (atrophy) of muscles, difficulty breathing or swallowing, sleep disturbances are common complaints.

Diagnosis

Doctors can suspect this disease usually by clinical examination of the physical signs, such as neck stiffness, abnormal reflexes and difficulty swallowing. The diagnosis can be confirmed by analysis of throat, stool or cerebrospinal fluid (a fluid surrounding the brain) samples.

Treatment

Treatment of polio is largely supportive and aims at preventing future complications. It includes:

  • Pain management
  • Physiotherapy (to prevent muscle wasting and deformities)
  • Ventilators to assist breathing
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