What causes polio?
Polio is caused by the poliovirus. The virus enters the body through the mouth. It is spread through contact with the feces (stool) of an infected person or through exposure to phlegm or mucus when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Polio can also be transmitted by handling objects that are contaminated with fecal matter containing the virus and then putting your hands in your mouth.
Poor hygiene or unsanitary conditions leading to contamination of food or water supplies with the virus have also been linked to polio outbreaks.
A person who is infected with the virus can remain contagious for 1 or 2 weeks after symptoms first appear. An infected person can carry the virus and infect others even if he or she does not appear to be sick.
Although people of any age can get polio, children age 5 or younger are at greater risk of infection.
What is the treatment for polio?
Once the virus that causes polio has infected a person, there is no treatment that will cure polio.
Early diagnosis and supportive treatments such as bed rest, pain control, good nutrition, and physical therapy to prevent deformities from occurring over time can help reduce the long-term symptoms due to muscle loss. Some patients, unfortunately, may require extensive support and care.
For example, some require breathing assistance and special diets if they have difficulty swallowing while other patients may require splints and/or leg braces to avoid extremity pain, muscle spasms, and limb deformities.
Some improvement in the symptoms may occur over time, but this improvement is not easily predictable and varies from patient to patient. For example, in the past, patients who needed breathing assistance would be treated with the iron lung.
Over time, some would improve and no longer would require iron lung therapy.