Encyclopedia

Polio

What is poliomyelitis?

Poliomyelitis – better known as polio, is an infectious disease caused by three strains of the poliomyelitis virus, which belongs to the genus Enteroviruses.

The first strain of the virus is responsible for 85% of the cases of development of the paralytic form of polio.

The disease occurs in two main forms – aparalytic and paralytic, in which inflammation of the central nervous system develops and can lead to complete paralysis.

Due to the introduction of mandatory immunization in Bulgaria in 1959 with a vaccine containing the half-live polio virus, cases of polio are sporadic. The last case of the disease in Bulgaria was in 2001.

What are the symptoms?

Most people who have been infected with the polio virus have mild symptoms that are hard to notice or no symptoms at all and do not know they have been infected.

According to the manifested symptoms, the distinction is made between the two main forms of poliomyelitis. They are also called “minor” (aparalytic) paralysis and “major” (non-paralytic) paralysis.

In “small” paralysis, when Enteroviruses do not spread in the nervous system, flu-like symptoms develop, for example:

  • High fever and sore throat;
  • Headache and general malaise;
  • Convulsions on the back and neck, muscle stiffness.

Symptoms usually subside within 10-14 days, and with their disappearance complete healing occurs.

In “major” paralysis, which develops in rarer cases, the initial symptoms are similar to those of the non-paralytic form. After about a week, however, characteristic symptoms of paralysis begin to appear:

  • Severe muscle pains and spasms;
  • Loss of reflexes;
  • Occurs quite mildly paralysis, which is characterized by difficulty moving the limbs.
  • Paralysis may appear suddenly and be more pronounced on one side of the body.
  • Breathing may be difficult.

Treatment of poliomyelitis

After infection with the virus, treatment is more supportive. Early diagnosis and adherence to prescribed supportive therapy, which includes bed rest, pain management, are particularly important.

Proper nutrition is also very important. Physiotherapy is key to the treatment of grand palsy to prevent deformities from reoccurring over time and to avoid loss of muscle function.

In more severe cases, it is possible to require the application of intensive therapy, such as the placement of a breathing apparatus and special nutrition, if the person affected by paralysis cannot swallow or swallows food with difficulty.

In other cases, plaster casts may be required to prevent pain, muscle spasms, and limb deformity.

Various surgical techniques have been described that are used to treat polio. Most people who undergo such surgery have not been able to improve their condition with standard treatment or wish to eliminate the effects of cured paralysis, called post-polio syndrome. The surgical techniques that are applied are:

  • Muscle transplantation;
  • Limb lengthening;
  • Limb correction;
  • Stabilization, transplantation or replacement of one or more joints.

How to protect against poliomyelitis?

Although polio is a relatively rare disease thanks to successful vaccination programs, it is important to know how to protect yourself and how to prevent its spread.

Vaccination against poliomyelitis is the most effective way to protect against this virus. In Bulgaria, as in many other countries, immunization against poliomyelitis is a mandatory part of the immunization calendar.

This means that all newborns and young children receive regular polio vaccinations to ensure they are protected against the virus.

Vaccination is carried out using the Pentaxim 5-valent vaccine. This vaccine contains inactivated polio virus, which means that the virus is inactive and cannot cause infection after the vaccine is administered. The procedure is performed intramuscularly and a special technique is used to ensure the correct administration of the vaccine.

The first vaccination with Pentaxim is usually carried out at the age of two months. This early vaccination is extremely important because it provides early protection to young children against polio and prepares them for subsequent doses of the vaccine.

The next dose of the vaccine is administered at three months of age and is again administered intramuscularly. The third injection of the vaccine takes place at the age of four months and is also administered intramuscularly. It is important to follow the vaccination schedule prescribed by your pediatrician to ensure continued protection for your child.

At the age of 6 months, the first reimmunization with Pentaxim is done. At this point, the vaccine can be administered either intramuscularly or subcutaneously, depending on the health professional’s guidance. This stage is important because it strengthens the child’s immune system and increases its resistance against polio and other infections.

The next reimmunization with Pentaxim is carried out at the age of 6. This stage is important as it keeps the child’s immune system strong and ready to deal with possible exposure to the virus.

It is important to note that polio vaccination poses no risk to children and is an effective way to protect against this serious virus.

It not only protects individuals, but also helps create “herd immunity” in society, which limits the spread of the virus.

Besides vaccination, there are other measures that can help protect against polio. This includes observing hygiene, washing hands regularly and avoiding contact with infected persons or materials.

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