What is it?

Poliomyelitis is a disabling and life threatening disease caused by the polio-virus. The virus is very contagious and can spread through contact with feces or droplets from a sneeze or a cough of an infected person. In about 0.5 percent of the cases it moves from the gut to the central nervous system and causes muscle weakness, resulting in a flaccid paralysis.
Post-polio syndrome may occur years after recovery, with a gradual development of muscle weakness. The disease is preventable with the polio vaccine.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of poliomyelitis may include flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, fatigue, nausea, headache and abdominal pain. A small group of people will develop severe symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord such as paresthesia (pins and needles in the legs), meningitis (headache, fever, neck and back pain and stiffness, vomiting, lethargy and irritability) and paralysis or weakness in the arms and/or legs. Paralysis can lead to permanent disability and death. Post polio syndrome symptoms may include progressive weakness, fatigue, muscle shrinkage, trouble swallowing, breathing problems, sleep disorders and sensitivity to cold temperature.


Poliomyelitis is suspected upon finding in medical history and physical exam. A laboratory diagnosis is usually made based on the recovery of poliovirus from a stool sample or a swab of the pharynx Antibodies of the poliovirus may be detected in the blood. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis may reveal increased white blood cells, and mildly elevated protein level. A PCR from the blood may also reveal the virus serotype. Post-polio syndrome is diagnosed by ruling out other causes for muscle weakness, an EMG may be done to evaluate the electrical activity of the muscles. Muscle biopsy may also be performed to look for sign of muscle damage. Your healthcare provider may make a diagnosis of PPS if you had polio in the past, have new muscle weakness and other symptoms that last for a year, and have no other cause for your symptoms.


There is no cure for polio, but there is treatment for relieving the symptoms. Supportive measures include antibiotics, analgesics, ventilators, moderate exercise and a nutritious diet. A long- term rehabilitation may be required after polio with occupational and physical therapy, braces, corrective shoes and in some cases even surgery. For post-polio syndrome, supportive treatment with special exercises, pain relievers, medicines to ease fatigue, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language therapy for troubles of swallowing. Some people with PPS may eventually need a machine to help with breathing.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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