6 Quick Facts About Polio: What Every Mom Needs to KnowVaccination is the best prevention for polio.CREATED WITH WILKINS
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Last month, the Philippines declared a polio outbreak after confirming the first two cases to emerge in almost two decades in the country: one in Lanao del Norte and another in Laguna.
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system. The virus spreads through person-to-person contact mainly through the fecal-oral route. At worst, it can cause permanent paralysis or even death.
But, there’s no need to panic. The key is to arm yourself with knowledge about polio, as well as the necessary steps you need to take to protect your family:
1. Polio is spread by direct contact.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US says a person can get infected with polio mainly if he or she puts his or her hands or objects like toys contaminated with the poop of an infected person in his or her mouth. Polio can also spread by inhaling droplets from a sneeze or a cough.
The poliovirus can live in feces for weeks, and can also be present in contaminated food and drinking water.
2. Children below 5 are most vulnerable to polio.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), polio mainly affects children ages 5 and below. This is due to the lack or absence of vaccination or, in some cases, poor hygiene habits. Children left unattended may inadvertently ingest contaminated feces through dirty toys, unwashed hands, or unclean food and water.
If you are an adult now, chances are, you already received the polio vaccine when you were a kid. In this case, you don’t need to get the polio vaccine again unless you are at a higher risk of exposure to the disease. Please read the joint statement by the Philippine College of Physicians and the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases here.
3. Most people who get infected with polio don’t always show any symptoms.
According to the CDC, up to 95% of people infected with polio don’t show symptoms although they can still spread the virus to others. A tiny percentage shows flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, fatigue, nausea, and stomach pain.
4. One in 200 polio cases will result in paralysis.
According to WHO, paralytic polio affects about 1 percent of polio cases. Affected individuals may experience loss of reflexes, severe spasms and muscle pain, loose and floppy limbs, sudden paralysis (temporary or permanent), and deformed limbs (typically the hips, ankles, and feet).
A grim finding by the WHO states 5 to 10 percent of those who are paralyzed eventually die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
5. There is no cure for polio.
Once a person contracts polio, he or she can only be provided with treatments that help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
Some supportive treatments include painkillers, muscle relaxants, antibiotics, physical therapy, or corrective braces to help with walking, heating pads or warm towels to ease muscle aches and spasms, among others. Severe cases may require portable respirators for breathing support or wheelchairs.
6. But polio can be prevented.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent polio and will give your kids lifelong immunity to the disease. Children under age 1 need three doses of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and one dose of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). Philippine doctors have released vaccination guidelines about the polio outbreak, which you can read in detail here.
Don’t forget that the poliovirus thrives in dirty environments. Remind the whole family always to wash their hands, make an extra effort to keep their environment clean, be sure that food is prepared in a sanitary manner, and use water that came only from clean and reliable sources.