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Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by three types of poliovirus. The poliovirus is a virus most recognized for its destructive effect on the nervous system, causing paralysis.

Paralytic polio can lead to temporary or permanent muscle paralysis, disability and deformities of the hips, ankles and feet. Since polio immunization has become widespread, cases of polio are very rare. An ancient disease, it was first recognized as a medical entity by Jakob Heine in 1840.

Incidence of the condition

Half a centurz ago, ago in 1952, there were nearly 58,000 known cases of polio in the United States, but currently in the US, about 8 cases of polio are reported yearly. Over a third of these individuals developed paralytic polio. Of the 1/3 infected with paralytic polio, 3,000 died. These cases were usually in children, and the cause has been traced to the oral poliovirus vaccine in most cases. Infants and young children are at greatest risk and infections are more common during the summer and autumn seasons.

Signs and symptoms of poliomyelitis

There are three basic patterns of polio infection:

  • Subclinical infections,
  • Nonparalytic,
  • Paralytic

Every stadium has its own recognizable symptoms.

Sub-clinical infection

  • No symptoms, or symptoms lasting 72 hours or less
  • Slight fever
  • Headache
  • General discomfort or uneasiness (malaise)
  • Sore throat
  • Red throat
  • Vomiting

Non-paralytic poliomyelitis

Symptoms last 1 to 2 weeks

  • Irritability
  • Pain or stiffness of the back, arms, legs, abdomen
  • Muscle tenderness and spasms in any area of the body
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Pain in the front part of neck
  • Backache
  • Leg pain (calf muscles)
  • Skin rash or lesion with pain
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Moderate fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive tiredness, fatigue

Paralytic poliomyelitis

  • Fever, occurring 5 to 7 days before other symptoms
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck and back
  • Bloated feeling of abdomen
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle contractions or muscle spasms, particularly in the calf, neck, or back
  • Drooling
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Muscle weakness, asymmetrical (only on one side, or worse on one side)
  • Rapid onset
  • Progresses to paralysis
  • Location depends on where the spinal cord is affected
  • Abnormal sensations (but not loss of sensation) of an area
  • Sensitivity to touch, mild touch may be painful
  • Difficulty beginning to urinate
  • Constipation
  • Irritability or poor temper control
  • Positive Babinski's reflex

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