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Polio is a severely contagious viral illness that causes breathing difficulty, paralysis and sometimes even death. Polio has been considered greatly eradicated since the last U.S. naturally occurring case in 1979. This being said there are numerous cases affecting children as well as many adults in such locations as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. It is advisable to protect yourself against the illness by getting vaccinated before traveling to these polio-occurring areas. Those individuals that receive a booster shot of inactivated poliovirus, also referred to as IPV, will be immune for life.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Polio

Polio is spread by feces or oral contact of humans as it lives only in humans. It is most often transferred by contaminated water and food as well as direct contact. This is most often occurring in areas where there is poor sanitation. Often those that live with others who have had polio can contract the illness. The virus can be spread to others through feces for weeks making it easily transferable. Those who have not been vaccinated for polio, who travel to many areas that are likely to have the illness or those who handle laboratory specimens, are at the most risk of contracting the illness. There are numerous complications relating to the illness including possible paralysis, both temporary and permanent, joint deformities in the ankles hips and even feet and other related deformities.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests for Polio

In some people, there are few symptoms of the polio virus being in their system. Those that do not suffer from the paralytic polio might develop such things as flu-like symptoms and other symptoms similar to viruses. The symptoms could last anywhere from one to ten days and might include: sore throat, headaches, fatigue, fever, vomiting, back and neck pain or stiffness, muscles aches and spasms and meningitis.

For those that contract paralytic polio, there are more severe symptoms depending on the area that the illness is contracted. These symptoms would occur within a week of contracting the illness and include progressive muscle or joint weakness as well pain, muscle atrophy, problems with swallowing, difficulty breathing and even a general fatigue that can occur after a small amount of activity.

While the physicians can typically spot polio through some of the signs such as neck and back stiffness as well as swallowing issues, breathing problems and poor reflexes, there are some tests that can be done to confirm the presence of the illness. The use of throat secretions, cerebrospinal fluid and stool samples can all supply information relating to the illness.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention of Polio

There is no way to reverse polio or cure it once it has been contracted. Instead it is important to focus on making the person comfortable dealing with the symptoms and of course trying to promote preventing contraction of the illness. Some things that are recommended to help the individual cope with the symptoms related to Polio would include: significant bed rest, ventilation assistance with breathing, guided exercise to help with muscle function, a good dietary plan and medications for pain relief.

Preventative measures that can be taken to help ward off the illness might include a polio vaccine at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months and a booster shot for those just at school age. Make sure that anyone that is traveling to areas likely to have the illness in abundance has a polio vaccine. This is essential to helping prevent the spread of the illness. Because the vaccine is so effective, if taken according to guidelines and with a booster shot, it is the best course of action in preventing the illness from spreading.