Poliomyelitis (Polio) is a highly infectious viral disease of the Central Nervous System that destroys the anterior horn cells of the spinal cord and motor cells of the brain. Polio mainly affects children under the age of five (5) years. However, anyone of any age that is unvaccinated against the virus can get the disease. Its incubation period (period between exposure to an infection and appearance of its first symptom) is 9-14 days.
Mode of Transmission
The virus is mainly transmitted from person(s) to person(s) through fecal-oral route or contaminated food and water. The virus multiplies in the intestine from where it can gain access to the nervous system and cause paralysis.
Causes or Risk Factors of Poliomyelitis
Poliomyelitis is mainly caused by poliovirus. Other factors that put an individual at risk of contracting the disease are:
- Poor hygiene
- Contaminated food
Signs and Symptoms of Poliomyelitis
Polio is often recognized because of symptoms which include:
- Muscle weakness
- Back pain or neck pain
- Limb pain
- Muscle wasting
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in breathing (dyspnea)
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Anorexia, vomiting
- Loss of reflexes
Diagnosis of Poliomyelitis
Diagnosis of poliomyelitis is confirmed through:
- Stool Analysis: This will reveal the presence of poliovirus.
- Throat and Pharyngeal Secretions: Secretions will reveal the presence of poliovirus.
- Lumbar Puncture: Cerebrospinal fluid (colorless fluid) that surrounds the brain and spinal cord is tested to reveal the presence of poliovirus.
Management of Poliomyelitis
There is presently no cure for poliomyelitis but management can be done symptomatically. It includes:
- Assessment of vital signs most especially respiratory rate
- Nurse suspected or infected patients in isolation
- Encourage bed rest to conserve energy
- Encourage adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration
- Analgesics are administered to relieve muscle pain
- Heat can be applied to joints to promote comfort
- Physiotherapy is encouraged to prevent deformity and loss of muscle
- Ensure proper hand washing always especially after using the toilet, before and after eating, and coming in contact with a suspected case
- Portable ventilators are used to assist in breathing
Prevention of Poliomyelitis
Immunization is the primary preventive measure for poliomyelitis. Two types of vaccines are available for the prevention of poliomyelitis. The vaccines are:
- Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV): This vaccine is given in four (4) doses orally. 2-3 drops are given at birth, at 6 weeks, at 10 weeks, and at 14 weeks. OPV provides protection for the mouth and intestines.
- Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV): This vaccine is given in four (4) doses. It is administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and a booster dose at 4-6years. 0.5ml is administered intramuscularly at the Antero-lateral aspect of the Right thigh (2.5cm apart from the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine). IPV provides protection in the blood.
Complications of Poliomyelitis
- Respiratory failure
- Inflammation of heart muscle (Myocarditis)
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)