When most people think about polio, they often think of an old-timey disease that no longer applies to them. However, did you know that polio does, in fact, still exist?
Though cases of polio have decreased drastically over the last several decades (more than 99% since 1988), there are still two countries in the world that have never fully stopped the transmission of this disease. These countries are: Pakistan and Afghanistan.
What does this mean for U.S. citizens?
As long as a child is infected with the polio virus, it puts children in all countries at risk of contracting the disease. This is because the polio virus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly among those who haven’t yet received immunizations.
The most terrifying part?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), failure to completely eradicate polio could result in as many as 200,000 new cases of polio each year, within 10 years, ALL OVER THE WORLD.
What is Polio?
Polio is a crippling, infectious disease caused by the poliovirus.
The poliovirus spreads from person to person and affects a person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.
Currently, there is no cure for polio. It can only be prevented. This is why it is so important to make sure that children are vaccinated at an early age.
The CDC defines a person as “fully immunized” from polio if he/she has received a primary series of at least three doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), live oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), or four doses of any combination of IPV and OPV.
Children should be vaccinated with 4 doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) at the following ages:
- A dose at 2 months
- A dose at 4 months
- A dose at 6-18 months
- A booster dose at 4-6 years
If you were vaccinated for polio as a child, you should not need an additional polio vaccine as an adult. However, if you are traveling to an area where there are cases of polio, or if you work in an environment (such as a lab) where you risk exposure to polio, you may need to get re-vaccinated.
Symptoms of Polio
Most people who contract polio show no visible symptoms at all. However, for some, symptoms may be flu-like and include:
- Sore throat
- Stomach pain
A small percentage of people with polio may display more serious symptoms, such as:
- Paresthesia (pins and needles feeling in the legs)
- Weakness in the limbs
Of these symptoms, paralysis is of the greatest concern as it can lead to permanent disability or even death as the muscles needed to breathe may become paralyzed.
How Polio is Transmitted
As far as research is concerned, polio only affects humans and is extremely contagious. Most often, polio is transmitted via human-to-human contact.
The disease enters the body through the mouth and can be spread by coming into contact with fecal matter, or through sneezing and coughing. Even if you don’t have polio symptoms, you can still spread the virus to other people just before you get polio as well as up to two weeks after you become symptomatic.
Polio in the United States
Since 1979, there have been zero reported cases of polio originating from the United States. However, polio has been brought into the U.S. from people who have traveled outside of the country.
The last documented case of polio being brought in from a traveler was in 1993.
Increasing Mobility for Polio Users
Like many disease that have potentially debilitating side effects, such as paralysis, physical restrictions, muscle weakness, and more - our goal at Van Products is to make it easier for people who have limited mobility to get around a little easier in their day-to-day lives. We do this by providing quality handicap vans and mobility products and accessories. For more information about any of the mobility items we sell, contact us today by calling: (800) 209-6133 or (919) 238-4597.