Polio Fact Sheet

January 9, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

With a newborn at Iringa Regional Hospital Polio is a potentially fatal disease that is infectious and transmittable. Once a person is infected with the polio virus, they cannot be cured. The only way to avoid getting afflicted by this disease is by getting immunised against it and the only way to prevent transmission and infection of this crippling disease is to make sure that every child is the world is vaccinated against it. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative strives to make the world polio-free by advocating the administering of polio vaccines to all children around the world. 

About polio

Polio or poliomyelitis is a highly contagious virus that attacks the nervous system. Once contaminated with the disease, the victim will experience paralysis within hours. Once infected, the effects and symptoms are irreversible and incurable. This virus can infect anyone but children are particularly at risk.

Transmission of polio

Polio is transmitted from one person to another. The virus infects a person by entering through the mouth and it starts multiplying in the intestine. The virus is shed from the body through faeces. In a crowded neighbourhood with substandard sanitation and hygiene, the disease can spread quickly throughout the community. Children must be immunised to prevent the virus from finding a host. Once the polio virus cannot find a host, it dies naturally and the threat of infection disappears.

Children who are not toilet trained are particularly vulnerable to polio infection even if the surroundings of the children are clean and hygienic. Polio can also spread if food or drinks are contaminated by faeces. Some researchers claim that the virus can be transmitted by flies that transfer the polio virus to food. Some people can carry the virus unknowingly without exhibiting symptoms of the illness and pass the virus on to people they come in contact with.

Symptoms and effects of the polio virus

Most people show no obvious symptoms or exhibit only mild signs of having been infected. Others will show distinct symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, and stiffness in the limbs and neck. Once the virus invades the brain, paralysis quickly sets in as the virus attack the brain cells that activate muscles, rendering the limbs limp and lifeless.

What the Polio Eradication Initiative can do

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative strives to get all people in high risk areas of the world vaccinated against the disease. Immunisation is the only way to stop the disease from spreading, multiplying and infecting children.

The initiative advocates and dispenses vaccines in various parts of the world. Most of the world’s polio cases are found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Aside from these 3 countries, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative also operates in other countries where monitoring agencies report possible outbreaks and polio cases. It takes a lot of man power to monitor, dispense vaccines, and to find the world’s polio cases. The organisation strives to investigate each and every report of possible infections wherever they may be as even a single case can initiate a full-blown outbreak.