Polio vaccination still evades the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities

12:51 pm Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

About 1% cases can develop into paralytic polio

New Delhi, 03 November 2018: Statistics indicate that while polio is a distant memory in most of the world, the disease still exists in some places and mainly affects children under 5. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

Today, only three countries in the world have never stopped transmission of polio (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria). Despite the progress achieved since 1988, as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Polio (also called poliomyelitis) is a highly contagious disease. It is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Children below 5 years are more likely to contract the virus than any other group. Even without symptoms, people infected with poliovirus can spread the virus and cause infection in others.About 1% of polio cases can develop into paralytic polio. The polio virus can hibernate in the human body for a long time. In an unvaccinated child, the chances of the virus becoming active later in life are high. Vaccination helps in the production of antibodies thereby preparing the immune system for a possible attack from the polio virus.Some symptoms include loss of reflexes, severe spasms and muscle pain, loose and floppy limbs, sudden paralysis, and temporary or permanent deformed limbs, especially the hips, ankles, and feet.”

India was declared polio-free in 2014 by the WHO. It is important for children to continue getting the vaccination as even a small gap in immunization among newborns can be enough for imported virus to seep in from across borders through adults exhibiting no symptoms.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Polio vaccine should be given immediately after the neonate is born.Some people feel that one dosage of the polio vaccine is enough to prevent the attack from the virus, which is not true.Children should get full doses regimen of the oral polio drops.A common myth associated with polio vaccine is that it causes impotency which is a ridiculous claim. The polio vaccine is the safest vaccine available in India.”

There is a need to create awareness on the fact that although improved public sanitation and careful personal hygiene can help reduce the spread of polio, the most effective way to prevent the disease is with polio vaccine. Also, there is no cure for polio as such and the focus is on increasing comfort, speeding recovery, and preventing complications.

Some supportive treatments include

  • Bed rest
  • Pain relievers
  • Portable ventilators to assist breathing
  • Moderate exercise (physical therapy) to prevent deformity and loss of muscle function
  • A nutritious diet including fruits and vegetables.

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