Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause paralysis and death in its most severe forms. It largely affects children under 5 years of age. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person through contaminated water or food.
The best defence against the virus is childhood vaccination or immunisation. Children have to be immunised with polio drops received at birth, 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 14 weeks, 18 months and 5 years of age.
Polio virus invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis or even death. It can be suspected when there is sudden weakness of the leg or arm or both or other parts of the body – not caused by injury.
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Although South Africa has been declared Polio free, it is still important for all South Africans to protect themselves against the disease, through knowledge.
Types of polio
There are 3 kinds of polio namely:
- Sub-clinical: which does not affect the central nervous system.
- Non-paralytic: which does affect the central nervous system, produces only mild symptoms and doesn’t result in paralysis.
- Paralytic: which is rare, but is also the most serious form of polio. It produces full or partial paralysis in the patient.
Symptoms of Polio
- Sub-clinical Polio
- Sore red throat
- Slight fever
- Vomiting, and
- General discomfort
- Non-Paralytic Polio
- Sore throat in the absence of upper respiratory infection
- Abnormal reflexes
- problems swallowing and/or breathing
- Back and neck pain as well as stiffness
- Arm and leg pain or stiffness, and
- Muscle tenderness and spasms.
- Paralytic Polio
- Loss of reflexes
- Severe spasms and muscle pain
- Loose and floppy arms and legs, sometimes on just one side of the body, this is due to the weakness which results from the involvement of the spine
- Sudden paralysis (temporary or permanent), and
- Deformed limbs (especially the hips, ankles, and feet due to prolonged weakness and the lack of appropriate orthopaedic bracing.
Source: Western Cape Government
SAMWUMED cover for Polio
Polio vaccinations are covered under the Maternity Benefits. Click here for more.