Polio | Symptoms, Treatment, Vaccines
What is Polio?
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly contagious and infectious disease caused by the polio virus. This enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the throat and intestines. The disease attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis, which is almost always permanent. In the most severe cases, polio is fatal.
What Are The Symptoms?
Polio infections can produce symptoms with varying degrees of severity. The majority of individuals have no symptoms at all. However, some people may experience a number of symptoms including fever, headaches, vomiting, constipation, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs.
Of those who do contract polio, only a small percentage will develop the paralytic disease.
How Is It Contracted?
Transmission of the polio virus most often occurs through either person to person contact, or by faecal-oral contact - as a result of poor hand washing, from ingestion of contaminated food or water, and in environments where hygiene and sanitation are poor. Those infected with the virus can excrete the virus in their stools for several weeks and are most contagious 7 to 10 days before and after the onset of symptoms.
Who Is At Most Risk?
Certain groups of people will be at greater risk than others.
- Overseas travellers visiting the high-risk areas detailed below
- All infants and young children
Where Are You At Risk?
Polio transmission has stopped in almost all industrialised countries, and remaining countries are expected to be free from polio by 2005. However, travellers are still at risk in the following areas:
- Indian subcontinent
- Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Angola
Following several epidemics throughout the early to mid 20th century, there has been a worldwide effort to eliminate the virus. While the disease is now rare in the Western and Northern Hemispheres owing to vaccination, it remains common in some parts of the world. Vaccination is available through your doctor's surgery.
When Should You Be Vaccinated?
Polio vaccination is usually given as a live oral vaccine, which is deposited directly onto the tongue. In he past, administering it with a sugar lump masked the bitter taste of the vaccine. This practice has fallen out of favour owing to the risk of tooth decay.
Infants should be vaccinated with a series of doses at an early age, and then boosters given before starting and leaving school. Individuals born before 1958 may not have been vaccinated as part of the childhood immunisation programme, and should check whether they need to complete a polio vaccination programme as adults. Anyone considering travel to an area where the disease is more common should consult his or her practice nurse or doctor for polio vaccination advice.
If you have never been vaccinated against polio, you can have your first dose at any time, followed by two or more doses at intervals of four weeks. Although a booster dose is not routinely necessary for adults, it is advisable for those exposed to continuing risk - travellers to high risk areas and healthcare workers exposed to the polio virus - to have a single booster dose every 10 years.
Check with your practice nurse as soon as you have decided where and when you are travelling, and they will advise on an appropriate vaccination schedule for you.
Does The Vaccine Have Any Side Effects?
Few side effects occur following polio vaccination.
Source Of information
GlaxoSmithKline, Wikipedia, local doctors, local hospitals, newspaper articles, various.
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If you wish to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand