World Polio Day 2018

1 in every 200 polio infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those who become paralysed, 5-10% die due to immobility of breathing muscles.

Since 1988, polio cases have reduced by 99% worldwide. This is due to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) that was established in the same year; during which polio paralyzed more than 1000 children each day, worldwide.

Overview on Polio

Polio, also known as Poliomyelitis is a contagious viral infection which can lead to nerve injury that may result in paralysis, breathing difficulty and sometimes even death. This condition mainly affects children below 5 years of age.

What causes polio?

This disease is caused by the polio virus which is transmitted from an infected person to an uninfected person through direct contact and through the faeces of the infected person. In some cases, though rare, the polio virus can be transmitted through contaminated food and water.

People who are at a high risk of getting polio are those who have not been vaccinated against the polio virus.

Symptoms of Polio

Not everyone who gets polio becomes paralyzed or dies, some people may have the virus and not even know; this is referred to as being asymptomatic. However, people who are asymptomatic can spread the virus to other people and cause infection in them.

Symptoms can vary in the following ways:

  • Non-paralytic polio: In this case, the symptoms can spread in 1-10 days and can be mild flu-like, but the person does not become paralysed. These symptoms may include:

1. Vomiting,

2. Fatigue,

3. Fever,

4. Sore throat,

5. Back and neck pain or stiffness, and

6. Headache.

  • Paralytic polio: This is the most serious form of rare disease which, in the beginning, can have symptoms similar to those of non-paralytic polio, such as headache and fever. In about a week, the paralytic polio symptoms appear, including:

1. Severe muscle aches or weakness,

2. Loss of reflexes,

3. Loose and floppy limbs,

4. Sudden paralysis which can be temporary or permanent, and

5. Limb deformities especially the feet, ankles and hips.

  • Post-polio syndrome: This is when polio reoccurs some years after having polio. Some of the common symptoms of this polio are:

1. Becoming easily fatigued,

2. Continuous or progressive muscle or joint weakness and pain,

3. Sleep related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea,

4. Low tolerance to cold temperatures, and

5. Muscle wasting (atrophy).

Diagnosis of Polio

Polio diagnosis begins with an initial doctor’s consultation when the doctor finds out what symptoms a person is experiencing and does a physical examination to check for back and neck stiffness, impaired reflexes, and difficulty swallowing, breathing and lifting the head while lying flat.

Other tests include lab tests to check for the poliovirus in a sample of stool, the cerebrospinal fluid or the throat.


Polio has no cure and therefore, the treatment focuses on treating the symptoms while the infection runs its course. The common supportive treatments for polio include:

  • Using pain killers,
  • Drugs to relax the muscles,
  • Antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs),
  • Physical therapy or use of corrective braces to help in walking,
  • Portable ventilators to assist in breathing, and
  • Using heating pads or warm towels to treat muscle aches.

Prevention of Polio

The major reason why polio cases have reduced drastically over the years is because of polio vaccination among children, especially those below the age of 5 years.

About world polio day

October 24th is world polio day, which was established over a decade ago to create a polio-free world. Until 2017, over 400 million children had been vaccinated against polio worldwide, efforts that have seen a decrease in the number of districts affected by polio from 29 to 14.

Over 16 million people have been saved from polio-caused paralysis globally, thanks to the polio eradication programmes that have been in existence since 1988.

However, the success of polio eradication depends on the close and strong collaboration between all the partners involved; governments both local and national, healthcare providers both private and public, the religious institutions, civil societies and most importantly the community members.

This is because community members are the one to embrace the vaccinations, without that acceptance, the initiatives put in place to end polio will not be effective. Without the coming together of all the parties who contribute in one way or the other in making a polio-free world a reality, polio eradication will not go far or would not have made the huge strides it has made to date.

Are you playing your role in polio eradication in whichever capacity you fall?

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