What is Polio?
The poliovirus, also known as poliomyelitis and infantile paralysis, is an infection caused by a virus that can eventually lead to troubles in breathing, paralysis, and even death. Polio is highly contagious, and the paralysis is caused by the virus attacking the nervous system.
History of Polio
In 1789, Michael Underwood, a British physician, provided the first clinical description of the polio disease.
In 1894, the first-ever polio outbreak that was considered to be in an epidemic form was recorded in the United States. This happened in Vermont with a total of 132 cases. Another large polio outbreak happened in 1916 in the United States.
At around 1930s, two major strains of the poliovirus were identified. Later it was determined that there are three strains of poliovirus.
In 1947 to 1950, Dr Jonas Salk was recruited by the University of Pittsburgh to conduct and develop a poliovirus research as well as to commence a polio typing project which will be funded through a grant.
In 1953, Dr Jonas Salk and his associates were able to develop a type of injected polio vaccine using an inactivated poliovirus. Technically, the virus is killed, so it is potentially safe. Through different field testing and clinical trials, the incidents of polio have decreased significantly.
Polio Causes and Acquisition
The poliovirus spreads through infected feces or stool, and this commonly occurs when a child has poor sanitation or handwashing habits. If children do not wash their hands or wash them incorrectly. If a child also eats or drinks from food or water that contains the virus, chances are, they can acquire polio.
Another possible way of acquiring polio is when a child who has already been infected with the poliovirus coughs or sneezes. The virus may spread as infected droplets are coughed or sneezed into the air.
If there is an active poliovirus or polio incident in an area, there is a high risk of transmission of the poliovirus to children who did not yet get a polio vaccine. Developing countries, particularly far-flung areas or areas with widespread poverty that have poor access to vaccinations, healthcare, and proper sanitation may have bigger chances or tendencies of acquiring polio cases.
There is an outbreak of polio in the Philippines.Our thoughts are with the 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur who is…
Symptoms of Polio
The challenging part lies in the fact that most of the time, polio cases here in the Philippines and abroad are asymptomatic and only less than 10% of poliovirus cases manifest symptoms. A vast majority of the infections caused by polio do not present any symptoms. In instances where there are symptoms of polio infection, there are some of them that manifest and so, you have to take note and be wary of these, especially with the coming forward of two new cases in the country.
Here are the signs and symptoms, which can last up to 10 days:
· Sore or painful throat
· Vomiting or nausea
· Fatigue and feeling of stress
· Stiffness felt in the back area or the neck
· Stiffness and pain felt in the arms or legs
· Tenderness or weakness in the muscle
Eradication of Polio
In 2017, there were only three countries in the world where polio has not been eradicated. This includes Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. The complete eradication of polio is the aim of the World Health Organization, and if this happens, this will only be the third disease to have disappeared next to smallpox and rinderpest.
However, these targets seem to have been challenged with the two most recent polio incidents recorded in the country.
In the case of poliovirus or infection, it only takes one polio incident to consider it as an epidemic, especially because there hasn’t been polio in the country for a long time. This is a reemergence of the virus given that the total eradication of polio in the country was declared 19 years ago.
Doctors are now concerned that the vaccine given to children do not address the Type 2 strain that was found in the recent cases in the country. According to the World Health Organization, in 1999, Type 2 polio had been “interrupted”. This type of polio strain occurs naturally, and upon its interruption 20 years ago, polio vaccines in the country have been bivalent in 2016 and not trivalent. This means the vaccines target only Type 1 and Type 3.
Fears for the Future
It is feared that this vaccine-derived polio found in the two cases may be from a Type 2 strain mutation. Outbreaks may occur in areas that are thickly populated, unsanitary, and have a lot of children.
Anti-vaxxers may also spread misinformation about the benefits of vaccine especially due to different vaccine controversies and so it is the job of the Department of Health to boost its vaccination programs to prevent future problems and risks, increase public re-education, and improve advocacy campaigns to avoid being complacent just because a certain virus hasn’t been in circulation for a long time.
How to Prevent Polio in Children?
Vaccinating your child from polio is important, and it is the main way to prevent polio in children. This is to ensure that your child has enough protection from the virus.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health gives both the Inactive Polio Vaccine (IPV) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). The IPV is given along with a child’s third OPV when the child is around three and a half years old. In other countries, only IPV is administered because OPV contains a live virus and may be less safe for some children compared to IPV.
IPV and OPV are both administered to children in the Philippines because protection from the poliovirus is more assured when both vaccines are given. OPV is given orally and protects the mouth and intestines because polio causes infection in the mouth and intestines. On the other hand, IPV is an injected vaccine that boosts the protection in the blood and fortifies the protection given by the OPV, and it increases the overall protection of children to the poliovirus.
Since 2000, the Philippines has been declared polio-free. It was stated by the Philippine Pediatric Society-Pediatric…
A child is at high risk of getting the virus if he or she travels to areas that have positive polio cases or comes into contact with someone who has the virus. So, to avoid this, parents should be aware of areas where polio is active or at risk of having poliovirus outbreaks.
Contact your healthcare provider when your child does not have complete vaccines against poliovirus. Inform him or her when you are planning to travel to a place that has polio cases or if you recently visited an area that has positive cases of polio, and your child exhibits symptoms. Tell your healthcare provider if your child came in close contact with a person who is sick or infected with polio.
Vaccination is your child’s best protection against polio. Science and data show the safety and benefits of getting complete shots against polio. Moreover, teach your child proper hygiene and sanitation because the virus spreads predominantly through a fecal to oral route.
If we practice and observe safety measures, the reemergence of polio in the country can be stopped in its tracks. Proper reeducation and information dissemination (not misinformation) are tools that will equip us to battle the poliovirus.