Poliomyelitis can be prevented

Poliomyelitis is a contagious and historically devastating disease. It is a viral disease that in 95% of cases has no symptoms, can affect the nervous system and lead to partial or total paralysis. Although it has been virtually eradicated throughout the world, there are still some regions with outbreaks of polio, especially among the poorest children on the planet.


What causes polio

Poliomyelitis is an acute infectious disease, caused by a gastrointestinal virus called poliovirus that can attack the nervous system and destroy the nerve cells responsible for controlling the muscles; the damage is irreversible, the affected muscles stop performing their function and are paralyzed.

In severe cases, polio can lead to death.

Poliovirus is spread by direct contact from person to person, by infected mucus or phlegm from the nose or mouth, or by contact with infected feces. The virus enters through the mouth and nose, multiplies in the throat and intestinal tract to be absorbed and spread through the blood and lymphatic system.

The time from being infected with the virus to the development of the symptoms of the disease (incubation), ranges from 5 to 35 days.


Three basic patterns of infection

There are three basic patterns of polio infection: a) subclinical (abortive) infection, b) nonparalytic and c) paralytic.

Approximately 95 percent of cases are subclinical infections and have no symptoms. A person with this type of infection may experience malaise, headache, red and sore throat, pain, mild fever and vomiting.

This pattern of poliomyelitis affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and is divided into non-paralytic and paralytic forms, which can occur after recovery from a subclinical infection.


How to prevent polio

The only way to fight polio is through prevention: the polio vaccine prevents safely (more than 90% effectiveness) in most people.

Between 1840 and 1950, polio was a global epidemic, but since the vaccines against this disease were developed, the incidence has been drastically reduced.