Poliomyelitis (polio)

General or Other | Neurology | Poliomyelitis (polio) (Disease)


Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system.

The worldwide prevalence of this infection has decreased significantly since then because of aggressive immunization programs. Eradication of this disease during the present decade is a top priority for the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many infected people have no symptoms, but do excrete the virus in their faeces, hence transmitting infection to others. Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent.

Causes and Risk factors

Poliomyelitis is an enteroviral infection that can manifest in 4 different forms: inapparent infection, abortive disease, nonparalytic poliomyelitis, and paralytic disease. Before the 19th century, poliomyelitis occurred sporadically. During the 19th and 20th centuries, epidemic poliomyelitis was more frequently observed, reaching its peak in the mid 1950s.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Polio can only be prevented by immunization. No antivirals are effective against polioviruses. The treatment of poliomyelitis is mainly supportive. Analgesia is indicated in cases of myalgias or headache. Mechanical ventilation is often needed in patients with bulbar paralysis. Tracheostomy care is often needed in patients who require long-term ventilatory support. ...