Many people have grown up hearing Polio, iron lungs, and people migrating from urban areas to rural areas to avoid the Poliovirus. Thankfully, Polio was eradicated from the USA and most countries worldwide in 1979.
Polio or Poliomyelitis is a disabling and infectious disease that affects the central nervous system. Polio is a very contagious disease. It is estimated that 1 infected person will spread the Poliovirus to 5-7 people (1 infected person with seasonal flu will spread the virus to approximately 1.58 people). Polio is spread from person to person in two ways. First, people with polio shed the virus through their feces. Second, the virus can spread to other people via contaminated water or food. This exposure is more likely in areas that have poor hygiene or weak systems to clean water. A person can also catch polio via droplets of an infected person (sneezing or coughing). Only 10% of people experience Polio symptoms. Polio can be easily confused with the flu as they share many symptoms, including sore throat, nausea, fever, headaches, fatigue, and stomach pain. A small percentage of people have more severe symptoms like Meningitis and/or paralysis.
People who were severely infected by the Poliovirus experienced their respiratory system shutting down, leading to the usage of the ‘Iron Lung.’ Unfortunately, 75% of people who were put into an iron lung died of their infection.
Thankfully, in 1955 the first Polio vaccine was invented. After many trials and vaccination programs, the number of people who Polio infected dropped exponentially. And in 1979, Polio was considered eradicated. Nowadays, babies are given the vaccine from a very young age.
It is important to remember that while vaccines are a great topic of debate, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have helped billions of people worldwide achieve immunity towards many severe diseases.
The eradication of Polio is thanks to immunization. Happy Global Immunization Month!
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