What is polio?


msBahasa Malaysia

Know the basics

What is polio?

Polio is a contagious viral illness. This condition is caused by the polio virus that spread from people to people by faecal-oral route or by infecting the water or food you eat. Once it enters the body, it will multiply in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis. Polio can lead to difficulty breathing and sometimes death.

How common is polio?

Polio is uncommon. It mainly affects young children. Today, because of extensive vaccination, polio outbreaks have largely disappeared, and most doctors have never seen a new polio infection. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of polio?

The common symptoms of polio are:

  • Fever of 38oC or above;
  • A sore throat;
  • A headache;
  • Stomach pain;
  • Aching muscles;
  • Feeling and being sick;
  • Vomiting.

More serious symptoms include major poliomyelitis. The symptoms, which usually appear 7 to 14 days after infection, include fever, severe headache, a stiff neck and back, and deep muscle pain. Sometimes areas of skin develop odd sensations, such as pins and needles or unusual sensitivity to pain.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Your child hasn’t completed the series of polio vaccinations.
  • Your child experiences an allergic reaction after receiving polio vaccine.
  • Your child has problems other than a mild redness or soreness at the vaccine injection site.
  • You have questions about adult vaccination or other concerns about polio immunization.
  • You had polio years ago and are now experiencing unexplained weakness and fatigue.

Know the causes

What causes polio?

Polio is caused by polio virus, an enterovirus, which is spread by swallowing food or water contaminated by the virus. The virus enters the body and multiplies in the intestine, then moves toward the brain and spinal cord  that control the muscles.

Polio is highly contagious. Anyone living with a recently infected person is likely to become infected, too. People carrying the poliovirus can spread the virus from their feces.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for polio?

There are many risk factors for polio, such as:

  • Travel to an area where polio is common or that has recently experienced an outbreak;
  • Living with or caring for someone who may be shedding poliovirus;
  • A compromised immune system, such as occurs with HIV infection;
  • Having had your tonsils removed (tonsillectomy);
  • Extreme stress or strenuous physical activity after being exposed to poliovirus, both of which can depress your immune system.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is polio diagnosed?

Doctors often diagnose polio by symptoms, such as neck and back stiffness, abnormal reflexes, difficulty swallowing and breathing. To confirm the diagnosis, a sample of throat secretions, stool or cerebrospinal fluid (a colorless fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord) is checked for the presence of poliovirus.

How is polio treated?

Polio cannot be cured, and available antiviral drugs do not affect the course of the disease. You can be given a ventilator to make breathing easier, but this is only temporary.

Supportive treatments include:

  • Bed rest;
  • Pain relievers;
  • Portable ventilators to assist breathing;
  • Moderate exercise (physical therapy) to prevent deformity and loss of muscle function;
  • A nutritious diet.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage polio?

Although improved public sanitation and careful personal hygiene may help reduce the spread of polio, the most effective way to prevent the disease is with polio vaccine.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.