Polio (A.K.A. Poliomyelitis) is an extremely contagious and debilitating disease caused by the polio virus. It occasionally causes death but the infection leads to paralysis, death results if the respiratory muscles are paralyzed. Polio is only found in human and spreads from person to person through food, water and hands contaminated by faeces (stool) containing the virus. Uncovered food can also be contaminated by flies carrying faces containing the virus. The virus attacks the brain and the spinal cord.
Polio is common in developing countries like Nigeria where sanitation is poor and potable water is in short supply. People resident in developed countries rarely get polio infection except on visit to a developing country, but it can then spread within that developed country through pharyngeal secretions.
Polio has no cure but can be prevented as stated below. Polio infection is now found in only three (3) countries in the world – Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan- according to the World Health Organization.
The disease affects mainly children under the age of (5) years, about 90 percent of cases, adults are occasionally affected.
1. Ensure your child is fully vaccinated against Polio.
The best way to protect your child against polio is by vaccination. Vaccination has removed
polio from developed countries, the last case of polio is the United State was reported in 1979.
Ensure that your child receives three (3) doses of Polio vaccine in the first year of life
beginning from 8 weeks. Another dose is given before the child enters school.
Adults who have never been exposed to the infection are also advised to get vaccinated. The
vaccine is quite safe and could be by mouth or by injection.
2. Take your child to Hospital if sick.
Most infections of Polio pass on un-noticed. Occasionally, there maybe slight fever, and a
feeling of being unwell. Every child under five (5) years should be taken to a hospital to see a
doctor if sick.
Simple operations or injection can trigger a paralysis if the child already has the infection. Do
not take the child to a chemist, or to an unqualified healthcare personnel, wrong treatment
could be tragic.
3. Practise Personal Hygiene.
The Polio virus spreads from person to person through food, water and hands contaminated
by faeces containing the virus. Consequently this chain can be broken if hands are washed
thoroughly with water and soap after using the toilet, changing baby nappy, working on soil
or handling materials used by a polio patient.
Another group which must take personal hygiene very seriously is made up of medical
4. Practise Food Hygiene.
Food is another medium of spread. Food should be thoroughly cooked before eating and
must be eaten hot. Food not to be eaten immediately must be covered to protect it from
flies. Kept food must be warmed to an appreciable temperature before being eaten.
5. Use Proper Toilet.
The Polio virus is passed out in faeces (stool). If stool is passed in the
open field/bush, it may be washed off to pollute sources of drinking water. Use of proper
toilet when passing stool is therefore key in breaking the spread chain. Also important is the
sewage disposal system, sewage cleared from houses must be taken to treatment plants
instead of being dumped in rivers and forest.
6. Isolation of Patients, Protection of contacts.
Polio thrives in poor sanitary conditions and crowded living conditions; it can occasionally spread through droplets from sneezing and coughing, infected persons should therefore be
isolated and all materials used by them disposed of or disinfected.
If your child had contact with a Polio patient, inform your doctor for appropriate management.
Un-immunised adult contacts must also see the doctor for appropriate management.