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Poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio, is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects young children. It is caused by the poliovirus, which is transmitted through contaminated food, water, or direct contact with an infected person. Polio can lead to severe complications, including paralysis and even death. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of poliomyelitis.

Fever: A Common Early Sign

One of the initial symptoms of polio is fever. The infected individual may experience a sudden rise in body temperature, accompanied by general discomfort and malaise. It is important to monitor the fever and seek medical attention if it persists or worsens.

Fatigue: Overwhelming Tiredness

As the disease progresses, fatigue becomes a prominent symptom. The infected person may feel an overwhelming sense of tiredness and lack of energy. This fatigue can be debilitating and may persist even after the fever subsides.

Headache: A Persistent Pain

Headache is another common symptom of polio. The infected individual may experience a persistent pain in the head, which can range from mild to severe. This headache can be accompanied by other symptoms such as neck stiffness and sensitivity to light.

Vomiting: A Distressing Symptom

In some cases, polio can cause vomiting. The infected person may feel nauseous and may vomit repeatedly. This can lead to dehydration, which further exacerbates the symptoms of the disease.

Sore Throat: Discomfort and Pain

Polio can also manifest as a sore throat. The infected individual may experience discomfort and pain while swallowing. This symptom can make it difficult to eat or drink, leading to further complications.

Neck and Back Stiffness: Limited Mobility

One of the hallmark symptoms of polio is neck and back stiffness. The infected person may find it challenging to move their neck or back due to muscle stiffness. This stiffness can be accompanied by pain and limited mobility.

Muscle Weakness: A Progressive Condition

As polio progresses, muscle weakness becomes more pronounced. The infected individual may experience a gradual loss of muscle strength, which can affect their ability to walk, stand, or perform daily activities. This weakness is often asymmetrical, meaning it affects one side of the body more than the other.

Asymmetrical Flaccid Paralysis: Severe Complication

One of the most severe complications of polio is asymmetrical flaccid paralysis. This condition occurs when the virus attacks the nerves that control muscle movement, leading to paralysis in specific muscles or muscle groups. The paralysis is usually more pronounced in the legs but can also affect the arms and other parts of the body.

Treatment and Prevention

Currently, there is no cure for polio. However, supportive care can help manage the symptoms and prevent complications. This includes bed rest, pain relief medication, and physical therapy to maintain muscle strength and mobility.

Prevention through Vaccination

The most effective way to prevent polio is through vaccination. The polio vaccine is safe and highly effective in preventing the disease. It is recommended that children receive multiple doses of the vaccine to ensure long-term immunity.

Improved Sanitation and Hygiene

Ensuring clean and hygienic living conditions can also help prevent the spread of polio. This includes access to clean water, proper sanitation facilities, and practicing good personal hygiene, such as regular handwashing.

Global Polio Eradication Initiative

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is a collaborative effort by various organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, to eradicate polio worldwide. Through vaccination campaigns and surveillance, the GPEI aims to eliminate polio and protect future generations from this debilitating disease.


Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a viral disease that can cause severe complications, including paralysis. Recognizing the early symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle weakness, is crucial for early intervention and management. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination and improved sanitation can help prevent its spread. By supporting global initiatives like the GPEI, we can work towards a polio-free world and ensure a healthier future for all.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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