Poliomyelitis is a contagious disease caused by a virus, which enters the body with food and contaminated water. The virus is passed in the stools of the infected person and if hygienic measures are poor and the disposal of faeces is not done properly, the infection spreads to water and food.
The illness begins as common cold, with aches and pains and stiffness of the back and neck, and the child recovers in few days without anyone realizing that he had poliomyelitis. In some cases, the nerves get affected and the child develops paralysis of any part of the body, usually a limb. Sometimes the whole body gets affected and the child may have difficulty in breathing because of the involvement of chest muscles.
It is a frightening disease but one should remember that with proper management, there is considerable or even complete recovery and the child is able to lead a perfectly normal life.
The child should be kept at complete rest during the first few days when there is fever, pain and tenderness. No injection should be given at this stage. Once the acute stage has passed, physiotherapy (exercises and massage), should be started with the advice of the treating doctor.
This is a long process and you must be patient and keep up your morale as well as that of the child’s. There are no drugs for the treatment of polio. B complex injections do not help. Physiotherapy is the only answer.
Since the virus is passed in the stools, during the illness there should be proper disposal of stools in the flush, and disinfection of bedsheets and clothes if they get soiled with faeces.
The disease can be prevented by polio vaccine.