Polio or poliomyelitis is an infectious disease that young children, if not immunized, are most at risk to acquire. It is caused by a highly contagious virus that attacks the nervous system. This leads to the polio virus infecting one’s spinal cord and brain. As a result, paralysis may occur in some parts of the body. In many parts of the world, polio has been eradicated. However, the disease still persists in Pakistan, even though efforts are being made to end it. Here is a summary of some of the polio cases in 2016.
Statistics and Progress in 2016
Records show that in 2016, Pakistan has had about 19 to 20 cases of Polio. Out of these, there have been 8in both, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as Sindh, and 2each in Balochistan and FATA. 12polio cases were reported worldwide from January to May. Out of these 12cases, 8 were from Pakistan and four from Afghanistan. This means that Pakistan is one of only two countries where major polio cases persist. However, Pakistan has seen an 82% decrease in polio cases in the last two years. Initially, there were 306 cases in 44 districts in 2014 which have come down to 54 cases in 23 districts in 2015. Furthermore, the numbers lessened in May 2016 by 64%. Therefore, there is a significant progress with the hope of eradicating the disease completely from the country.
Causes and Transmission of Poliovirus
Poliovirus is extremely contagious due to which it is easily transmitted from person to person. The virus enters through the mouth and spreads through direct contact with feces. Additionally, an infected person may transmit the disease through sneezing or coughing. Furthermore, the virus infects the victim’s throat and intestines. It takes as little as a week or two for an infected person to be capable of spreading the disease. Those who are infected may not show symptoms themselves but can still transmit the virus and make others sick.
Conditions with Increased Risks
Polio can spread more easily in areas with contaminated food and unsanitary water. People who run the risk of infection are those who live in areas with water shortages and where waste is not effectively disposed. Those most at risk include young children, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems. Therefore, people living in Pakistan’s slums are still at risk of contracting this disease. Unhygienic conditions, malnutrition and lack of health facilities in these areas make them most susceptible to polio.
Types and Symptoms
Polio can be paralytic and non-paralytic. Paralytic polio can lead to spinal polio, bulbar polio or bulbospinal polio. Spinal polio refers to paralysis in the spinal cord whereas bulbar polio means brain paralysis. Bulbospinal polio occurs when both, the brain and the spine are paralyzed. The symptoms of paralytic polio range from deformed hips, ankles, feet or limbs to muscle spasms and loss of reflexes. Sudden, temporary or permanent paralysis may occur. Non-paralytic polio is usually characterized by fever, vomiting, fatigue, meningitis, headache and sore throat, and can last up to 10 days.
Vaccination as early as possible is the most common form of prevention against polio. Children are given polio vaccinations as soon as they are born so that their immunity starts developing straight away. There are two types of vaccines for polio. These are inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) and oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV). In many parts of the world, including some of Pakistan, polio drops are mandatory. As a result, they are given to children at their doorsteps, and a tough check is kept.
With the decreasing number of cases, a positive light seems to shine on the prospects of ending polio in Pakistan. If these preventive efforts are maintained and steps are taken to improve awareness, there is no doubt that polio may soon become a disease of the past.
It is always a good idea to consult a doctor if you have doubts about the polio vaccination.