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There are various diseases that are thought to have ancient Egyptian origin. These

diseases include: the plague, influenza, small pox, and poliomyelitis. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics

from about 2000 BCE show people with withered legs and arms. Poliomyelitis, also known as

polio, is a contagious viral disease that can even cause paralysis, difficulty breathing and

sometimes death its most severe form. This disease can affect anyone at any age but it primarily

affects children under 5 years old. In this essay, I will talk about the transmission, types of polio

and symptoms, treatments, and prevention of the disease.

First, polio is transmitted from person to person. It is mainly transmitted through a fecal- oral route. “Poliovirus virions are very stable, especially in in acidic pH, and can remain infectious

for relatively long periods in food and water, its main routes of transmission. The incubation

period ranges from 6 to 20 days” (1). Once the virus is ingested it multiplies in the mucosa of the

throat or small intestine. From here, the virus goes into the tonsils and lymph nodes of the lymph

nodes in the neck and the terminal potion of the small intestine. Sometimes the virus enters the

blood stream and causes viremia. In more than 99% of those cases, the viremia lasts only for a

short time and does not result in clinical disease. In the other less that 1% cases, the viremia

persists and goes into the central nervous system and this causes paralytic polio.

Next, there are three different types of polio. These three types include sub­clinical, non- paralytic, and paralytic. Sub­clinical polio does not affect the brain nor the spinal cord. About 95%

of the cases of polio are sub­clinical cases. These patients might not experience any symptoms at

all. Symptoms can include: headache, sore throat, fever, vomiting and general discomfort. Non- paralytic polio “does affect the central nervous system, produces only mild symptoms and does not

result in paralysis” (2). Symptoms for non­paralytic polio include headache, neck pain, limb pain,

back pain, abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, lack of energy and enthusiasm, and irritability. It is

common to have muscle spasms in neck, hamstrings and back. Muscles are also tender to touch.

Paralytic polio is the most serious case of polio and also the rarest. The patient ends up having

partial or full paralysis with this type of polio. There are three types of paralytic polio which

include: spinal, bulbar, and bulbospinal. Spinal paralytic polio affects the spine and results in the

appearance of flaccid paralysis in one or more limbs. Bulbar polio is severe and affects the medulla

oblongata and can result in disfunction of swallowing mechanisms, respiratory embarrassment, and

circulatory distress. The last type of paralytic polio is bulbospinal. Bulbospinal polio affects both

the spine and the brain stem. There is also a complication that can happen when a person has had

and recovered from poliovirus called post­polio syndrome. “Symptoms of the syndrome can

appear up to 35 years after the polio infection(2).” Symptoms include: progressive muscle and

joint weakness and pain, fatigue and exhaustion with minimal activity, muscle atrophy, breathing

or swallowing problems, sleep apnea, and less tolerance of cold weather.

Then, there is no existing cure for polio. “Because no cure for polio exists, the focus is on

increasing comfort, speeding recovery, and preventing complications(3).” The only thing that can

be done is treat the symptoms while the infection runs its course. There are many ways to treat

these symptoms. The most common treatments include: rest, painkillers for headaches and body

aches, antibodies for urinary tract infections, portable ventilators for help with breathing, physical

therapy, corrective braces to help with walking, heating pads to help with muscle pains, and

sometimes wheelchairs. Physical therapy in this case is used for multiple reasons. Patients use

physical therapy to help with walking, to treat pain in affected muscles, and to help with breathing

and pulmonary problems.

Finally, there are many ways to prevent polio. For children, the best way for this virus to

be prevented is for them to be vaccinated. According to the CDC vaccination schedule, children

should have their first dose of the vaccine at two months of age, then at four months, then

anywhere from when the baby is six months to eighteen months, and finally a booster dose at the

ages of four to six years old. The shots can rarely causes allergic reactions that include: breathing

problems, high fever, dizziness, hives, swelling of the throat, and rapid heart rate. In the United

States, adults are not at all at high risk of getting polio. Although, an adult would be at high risk in

the case that he or she traveled to an area where polio is still common. In that case, that person

should make sure to get a series of shots before traveling.

In conclusion, poliomyelitis is a very dangerous disease that is thought to be as old as

ancient Egyptian times. This disease is transmitted from person to person. There are three types of

polio: sub­clinical, non­paralytic, and paralytic. Besides those three types there are also three types

of paralytic polio which are spinal paralytic polio, bulba paralytic polio, and bulbaspinal paralytic

polio. Although there is no cure for this disease there are many ways to treat the symptoms of this

disease to ensure comfort and rapid recovery for the patient. With all that said, the best ways to

prevent polio is to keep good hygiene and vaccination.


1) Willey, Joanne M., and Linda Sherwood. Prescott's Microbiology. 8th ed. New York:

McGraw­Hill, 2011. Print.

2) "Polio." Healthline. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.


3) "Polio." ­ Mayo Clinic. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. .

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