Questions and answers on diseases: Polio

What is Polio?

It is a viral disease which may affect the CNS and lead to partial or total paralysis . The medical term is poliomyelitis.


Is it common? 

In many countries it was the most common cause physical disability in children. In some areas at least 1 out of 100 children had some kind of paralysis due to polio. Polio has been eliminated in countries with effective vaccination calendars; however, it is still very common in India, Nepal, Nigeria and Afghanistan.


How is it spread? 

The virus is generally spread via person to person through the faeces of an infected individual which reach the mouth of another susceptible individual. In some cases the source of infection may be due to water or foods contaminated by the faeces of infected people. Transmission via respiratory secretions has also been described.


How is it identified?

Laboratory analysis of a stool samples from each suspected case identifies the polio virus, and the sample must be collected within 14 days of paralysis onset.  The laboratory inoculates the sample into cell cultures where the virus can infect and replicate. Subsequently the virus is isolated and typified via molecular and genetic sequencing tests.  

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