Poliomyelitis is called "the Crippler" for good reason. Throughout the 1980s, it caused more than 350,000 cases of paralysis every year.
Poliomyelitis (or Polio for short) is an infectious life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus.
Polio is coming under control. It remains in circulation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. These countries experienced a total of 42 cases in 2016.
But any case can prove fatal, and the virus may be able to spread to Canada. You need to know what the poliomyelitis risks are.
Poliomyelitis symptoms include a fever, sore throat, and back pain. But it can progress into meningitis, infecting the membranes that insulate the brain. From there, the virus can enter into the spinal cord, paralyzing a person and deforming their limbs.
What is poliomyelitis, and how does poliomyelitis spread? What is the treatment plan like? What vaccines are available to Canadian families?
Answer these questions and you can help end this dangerous disease. Here is your quick guide.
The poliovirus causes poliomyelitis. There are three types of poliovirus that are in the wild. The World Health Organization has eradicated types 2 and 3, and type 1 has only limited spread.
The disease is not curable. But most people who have it experience limited or no symptoms. Those who do experience symptoms encounter few side effects.
The virus is very contagious. An infected person can spread it for two weeks after their symptoms appear. A person can go days without showing symptoms, and they can spread the virus during that time.
It can spread through an entire family within a few hours, then through an entire community in a few days. The recovery time for an individual can take up to two weeks. This means that it can take months for a community to fully recover.
Polio is a treatable disease. A doctor can diagnose a case of polio off of symptoms alone. If the symptoms are not enough, they can take throat cultures and measure virus levels in them.
Treatment of polio generally requires hospitalization. A patient can receive antibiotics that kill infections in their muscles. If they have difficulty breathing, they may be put on a ventilator.
Some people with polio encounter difficulty moving their arms and legs. The Kenny regimen is a form of physical therapy that can help these patients.
A doctor applies hot packs onto the patient's skin to relieve their spasms. They help the patient engage in some exercises to get their muscles working.
If left untreated, polio can have serious effects. One out of 200 cases results in irreversible paralysis.
The poliovirus spreads from person to person, not through animals. It cannot grow in water on its own, though it can grow on contaminated substances that travel through water.
It can spread through respiratory droplets, especially when a sick person coughs or sneezes. But it most often passes through feces. The poliovirus can live in a person's feces for weeks on end.
Feces can get on food or into the water, and a person can then ingest it. The virus passes into the individual's throat, then down into their intestines. It stays there for a short period of time before moving into the bloodstream.
Polio is an easily preventable disease. Installing proper sanitation and having access to handwashing resources can prevent most cases.
There are two types of polio vaccines. The inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) involves injections into the arms and legs. As the name suggests, it uses an inactive version of the virus to create immunity.
IPV protects against all three types of the virus. A person must receive three separate doses in order to have full immunity, and they can take an optional booster shot.
Nearly all people who receive it get it when they are a baby. The vaccines have no major side effects besides temporary pain at the injection sites. A person can receive their polio shots alongside other vaccines, including the shingles vaccine.
IPV is available in Canada. In other countries, the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is most common.
It contains a mixture of live strains that a person swallows. An individual must receive at least four doses to have complete immunity. Children living in rural locations with poor sanitation should take more.
OPV has no major side effects. But the live viruses it contains can cause paralysis on very rare occasions. This makes the OPV hard to find in Canada, though you may be able to take it.
If you have not gotten vaccinated, you should get the vaccine as soon as possible. Rare cases have appeared in Canada, but any case can cause complications. It is essential that you get vaccinated if you plan on going to a country where it exists.
The cost of IPV is covered under nearly all insurance plans. You can go to your personal doctor, or you can go to a clinic to get vaccinated. Try to take your child to their pediatrician in order to put them at ease.
Because OPV is less common, you may have to pay out of pocket in order to find it. It is usually inexpensive, though prices vary. Talk to your doctor to see what you have to pay.
The world is fighting poliomyelitis. The poliovirus can linger in sanitary systems for weeks, spreading through food and water. Left untreated, polio can result in limb deformities and spinal paralysis.
But antibiotics and basic physical therapy can help in most cases. The inactivated polio vaccine offers comprehensive protection from the virus, and the oral vaccine works for nearly all people. You don't have to pay if you have insurance, so get vaccinated today.
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