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Poliomyelitis Essay, Research Paper

Mornings bring pain, not particular to its domain, when we should be refreshed and strong. If there is a trick up it s sleeve, it s in midmorning and we think, for the thousandth time, it went away. It comes to catch us again, with a mid-afternoon wave of fatigue, so overwhelming the world isn t real. The struggle is enormous. This has to be the worse time. When hope and excitement of genius ideas reach their peak, to be brought down by a ghastly thing, no hopes can overcome. We must sleep, when we want to create, demonstrate our normalcy and brilliance . This was written by a sufferer of the poliovirus, in her writing she expresses the heavy exhaustion that accompanies the disease.

Poliomyelitis, also known as polio, which is a disorder caused by a viral infection that affects the whole body including muscles and nerves. Severe cases may cause permanent paralysis, the loss of muscle movement or death. Poliomyelitis is a communicable disease caused by infection with the poliovirus. Transmission of the virus occurs by direct person to person contact, by contact with infected secretions from the nose or mouth, or by contact with infected feces. The virus enters through the mouth and nose, multiplies in the throat and intestinal tract, and then is absorbed and spread through the blood and lymph system. The lymph system is a major part of the body s immune system; this is why it has such a tremendous effect on the body. The time period in which all of this can take place is within five to thirty five days, on average seven to fourteen days.

Polio occurs worldwide; however, cases of polio in the U.S. have not been reported in recent years. Only six cases were reported in 1991. It once affected mostly infants and children, but now is more frequent in people over fifteen years old. Adults and young girls are most likely to be infected, but infection in young boys usually results in paralysis. The disease is more prevalent in the summer and fall months. Between 1840 and the 1950s, polio was a widespread epidemic. Since the development of polio vaccines, the happening of polio outbreaks has been significantly reduced. Outbreaks can and still do occur, normally in unimmunized communities.

The most common risks of receiving polio include: lack of immunization against polio; traveling to an area that has experienced a polio outbreak; being very young or very old in age; pregnancy; trauma to the mouth nose or throat, such as recent tonsillectomy or dental surgery; and unusual stress or physical exertion after an exposure to the poliovirus, since emotional and physical stress can weaken the immune system. The most effective way to prevent infection of poliomyelitis is by immunization. The usual series consists of five vaccinations at two months, four months, six months, and fifteen to eighteen months of age. A final dose should be given just before the child attends school-four to six years old. In most persons immunization is over ninety percent affective.

There are three basic patterns of polio infection: subclinical infections, nonparalytic, and paralytic. About ninety five percent are subclinical infections, which may go unnoticed. Major cases of poliomyelitis affect the central nervous system-brain and spinal cord and are divided into nonparalytic and paralytic forms. It may even occur after recovery from a subclinical infection.

Symptoms of the subclinical infection last, normally, seventy-two hours or less. They include the following: slight fever, headache, general discomfort or uneasiness, sore throat, red throat, and vomiting.

Nonparalytic poliomyelitis, being more serious than the subclinical infection has symptoms that may last one to two weeks. They are: moderate fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive tiredness, fatigue, irritability, pain or stiffness of the back, arms, legs, abdomen, muscle tenderness and spasm in any area of the body, neck pain-in the front part of the neck, skin rash or lesion with pain, and muscle stiffness.

The severest symptoms are those that accompany the paralytic condition of poliomyelitis, which includes: fever-occurring five to seven days before other symptoms, headache, stiff neck and back, muscle weakness-progresses to paralysis depending on where the spinal cord is affected, abnormal sensations of an area, sensitivity to touch-mild touch becomes painful, difficulty beginning to urinate, constipation, bloated feeling of abdomen, swallowing difficulty, muscle pain, muscle contractions or muscle spasms-in the calves, neck, or back, drooling, breathing difficulty, irritability or poor temper control.

Symptoms are treated according to their presence and severity. Lifesaving measures, particularly assistance with breathing, may be necessary in severe cases. Antibiotics may be used to treat urinary tract infections. Analgesics, medications for pain are used to reduce headache, muscle pain, and spasms. Narcotics are not usually given because they increase the risk of breathing difficulty. Moist heat, for example, heating pads or warm towels may reduce muscle pain and spasm. Activity is limited only by the extent of discomfort and the extent of muscle weakness. Physical therapy, braces or corrective shoes, orthopedic surgery, or similar interventions may eventually be necessary to maximize recovery of muscle strength and function.

Recovery varies with the severity of the disease and the site affected. If the spinal cord and brain are not affected, which occurs in over ninety percent of cases, complete recovery is likely. Brain or spinal cord involvement is a medical emergency that may result in paralysis or death due to respiratory difficulties. Disability is more common than death. Lesions high in the spinal cord or in the brain are associated with greater risk for respiratory difficulty.

Polio infections can vary from what people believe to be a terrible case of the flu to a life threatening disease. Everyone should be protected, especially with anti-polio vaccine readily available. If you or members of your family are about to travel abroad, ask your physician about extra preventative doses of the vaccine.


Author unknown Post Polio Syndrome. Online. Internet. Polio Pals Place, no date. Available http://www.polkcity.net/polio/pps.html. 15 February 2000.

Sammons, H. James MD., et al. Polio. The American Medical Association Family Medical Guide. Ed. Jefferey R.M. Kunz, MD, and Asher J. Finkel, MD. New York: Random House 1987.


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