Polio is an infectious viral disease that mainly affects children under five. It afflicts the nervous system, especially the nerves of the lower limbs and causes complete or semi-paralysis, and death in some cases. The disease is triggered by the 'polio virus', which spreads through the feces of infected people.

Facts :
  • India has been polio free since January 2011. On 13, January 2014, India was declared Polio free by WHO.
  • It is still mandatory that all children under the age of five years continue to receive the polio vaccine because polio still exists in certain other countries of the world and there is a risk of the virus getting imported into India.
  • The Government of India has launched Pulse Polio Immunization Program in 1995 to eradicate polio. Under this program, all children below the age of 5 years are administered two doses of the oral polio vaccine per year.
  • In India, the polio vaccine (usually OPV) is given to a child in 5 doses; 1st dose at birth, three primary doses at 6, 10 &14 weeks and one booster dose at 16-24 months of age.
 
Signs and symptoms:
  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Pain or stiffness in neck, back, arms or legs
These symptoms last up to 10 days of infection.
Severe symptoms include meningitis (infection of brain and spinal cord) and irreversible paralysis of legs or arms which occurs in 1 out of 200 infections.
 
Causes:
  • The polio virus resides only in humans and enters the environment in the faeces of someone who’s infected.
  • Polio virus can be transmitted through contaminated water and food or through direct contact with someone infected with the virus.
  • Polio is so contagious that anyone living with a recently infected person is likely to become infected, too.
  • Those who are infected may spread the disease even if no symptoms are present for up to six weeks.
  • The disease may be diagnosed by finding the virus in thefeces or detecting antibodies against it in the blood.
Risk Factor:
  • You are at greatest risk of polio if you haven’t been immunized against the disease.
  • Travelling to area where polio is common or has recently experienced an outbreak
  • Poor sanitation, no immunization again polio virus increases the risk of being contaminated by the virus for pregnant women and people with weak immune systems
  • Living with person affected with polio virus
  • Suffering from HIV infection
  • Having had tonsils removed (tonsillectomy)
  • Undergoing extreme stress or physical activity after being exposed to polio virus.
 
Prevention:
There is no cure for polio. It can only be prevented through immunization.
There are two types of polio vaccines:
  • Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV): OPV is a live but weakened form of virus which makes the body produce antibodies against it without developing into the disease. It is given as oral drops.
  • Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV): IPV as the name suggests is inactive virus which is injected to people who have been vaccinated.
Doctors often advise parents to first give their child the IPV so that your baby develops antibodies against the disease, and then OPV which will provide immunity to a larger community. 
Some parents worry about the side effects of the polio vaccine. The vaccine has proven to be safe and is the most effective tool we currently have in preventing polio. A combination of OPV and IPV will put your fears to rest. If you are still worried, discuss your concerns with your doctor.