How is polio diagnosed?
Along with a complete physical exam and medical history, doctors will take throat and stool cultures and sometimes blood and spinal fluid levels to look for poliovirus.
How is polio spread?
The virus is often spread due to contact with infected feces. This often happens due to poor hygiene, particularly hand washing. It can also occur from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
It can also be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes infected droplets into the air.
People with the virus can excrete the virus in their feces for several weeks. People are most contagious just before symptoms start and shortly after they appear.
Who has had polio?
It is estimated that there are around 120,000 people living in the UK who survived polio when they were younger.
Famous people who had polio include Mary Berry, the chef, Neil Young, the musician, Jone Mitchell, the singer, Donald Sutherland, the actor, Francis Ford Coppola, the director, and David Stakey, the historian.
What is the treatment and can you recover from polio?
There is no specific cure for people who become infected. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms by prescribing pain relievers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Patients are often advised to follow a special diet, engage in minimal activity, and use hot packs or heating pads for muscle pain.
Severe symptoms of paralysis may require assistive devices for movement, such as braces, canes, and wheelchairs. Patients may also need help breathing, such as extra oxygen or a ventilator, and physical or occupational therapy.
Some people who have recovered from a mild episode develop post-polio syndrome, which can cause persistent fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle shrinkage, and muscle and joint pain.
Where did polio originate?
Carved plaques from Ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. They show a priest with a withered leg using a cane, suggesting that polio has been around for thousands of years, but was first described in medical literature by British physician Michael Underwood in 1789.
The virus was never considered a major problem until the late 19th century, when outbreaks began to occur in industrialized areas. The first significant outbreak occurred among children in Vermont in the US in 1894.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Europe and North America were looking for major outbreaks during the summer, and parents were advised to keep children away from public places like amusement parks, swimming pools, and beaches.
Severe outbreaks were thought to be due to improved hygiene that prevented young children from being exposed, leaving them at higher risk later in childhood.
When did Britain start vaccinating people against polio?
Large outbreaks in the 1940s and 1950s led to accelerated vaccination programs, and by 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk had created the first polio vaccine.
Britain immediately adopted it, and in 1961 the UK switched to an oral vaccine that was often dropped on the tongue or placed on a sugar cube.
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