Polio is a catastrophic and life-threatening disease
Polio is an infectious disease, and it primarily affects the children. It mainly attacks the nervous system, which leads to spinal and respiratory Paralysis, and occasionally death occurs. It has existed since prehistoric times; the history of ancient Egypt shows that the effect of Polio is with withered limbs and walking with canes. However, it destroyed many lives, and it has no cure, but with adequate immunisation, it can be controlled. Let’s read this blog to know about Polio.
A glimpse of a brief history of Polio
It has affected children around the globe for millennia. The first ever Polio was recognized in 1840 by Jakob Heine, a German physician. Another record was estimated in the US in 1952, which killed over 3000 people. Moreover, those who were affected by the disease and survived face lifelong repercussions, such as in the form of deformed limbs, etc. At the same time, some used breathing devices which are used for inhaling for the treatment of Polio.
When the time arose in the mid-20th century, this crippling disease spread all over the world, and there was a need for a vaccine because this disease had no cure at that time and still doesn’t. So, scientists started working on it and did deep research on it to design vaccination.
However, in 1954, John Enders, Thomas Weller, and Fredrick Robin invented the polio virus in human tissue at Children’s Hospital. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954 for their work. However, the results of this vaccine were announced in 1955. The output of the vaccine was tremendous; the total Annual cases of poliovirus dropped from 58,000 to 5600, and by 1961, the cases of Polio remained at only 161. Therefore, by complete research on the results of vaccination, six pharmaceutical companies were licensed to produce IPV. It is worth mentioning here that Salk did not profit from sharing the formulation.
Additionally, another vaccine was formulated by a microbiologist, Albert Sabin. It was OPV, an oral polio vaccine. The process of that vaccine intake was oral drops or on a sugar cube. Likewise, Salk Sabin experimented with himself and his family with that vaccine. However, he worked on a larger scale, and a team of Russian virologists reached his lab, and then they moved to various regions like Leningrad and Moscow for further experimentation. Trials carried out for various regions eradicating Polio phenomenally. However, different experiments carried out in different regions as described
- Soviet Union: in 1958, 20,000 children, and 10 million in 1959
- Czechoslovakia: in 1958, 1 10,000 Children
Hence, the above results proved that the vaccine was safe and effective.
Moreover, the First countries in the world were Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1959 and 1960. However, the method of oral vaccine was an ideal method for the mass campaign.
Polio condition in Pakistan
Polio is a viral disease that has had extreme effects over Pakistan. Almost millions of Pakistanis have died due to the heavy wave of Polio. A lot of vaccines have been introduced in Pakistan to eradicate Polio from this region. Pakistan is one of the three nations where wild poliovirus transmission is still prevalent, along with Nigeria and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the battle against Polio has lasted for many years. Despite tremendous advancement and a sharp decline in polio occurrences over the years, the virus has survived in some places and now poses a hazard to the health of young children.
Polio eradication attempts in Pakistan have been hampered by a number of issues, including: Conflict and insecurity have made it impossible for health professionals to reach children with immunizations in some areas, especially those that border Afghanistan. Some tribes have resisted vaccination initiatives, which has resulted in violence against medical personnel. False rumours and misconceptions regarding the polio vaccination have been spreading in some communities, which has caused immunisation reluctance. These myths have been dispelled, and trust-building initiatives have been ongoing.
Weak Health Systems
The accessibility and effectiveness of immunisation programmes have been constrained in some regions by a lack of healthcare facilities and resources.
High Population Density
Pakistan has a sizable population, making it challenging to provide the polio vaccine to every kid, particularly in urban areas with high population densities.
Pakistan has undertaken a number of initiatives to fight Polio, including National Immunisation Campaigns. To reach every kid, even those in high-risk areas, the government runs nationwide polio vaccine campaigns. Polio can result in Paralysis, so monitoring cases of severe acute flaccid Paralysis (AFP) is crucial to attempts to eradicate the disease. Tracking the virus and halting its spread is made more accessible by prompt diagnosis and treatment of AFP infections.
Different institutions experimented with various vaccines to eradicate the crippled disease
- In 1979, Rotary International started a campaign. It was a multi-year project in which they decided to immunise about 6 million children in the Philippines.
- In 1988, the World Health Assembly decided to eradicate Polio and its complete reduction to zero and no risk of future reinduction, and they passed a resolution and launched GPEI(Global Polio Eradication Initiative)
- Various other countries worked with WHO for international assistance to eradicate this disease by complete immunisation of children.
- In 1995, in 19 Mediterranean and European countries, national Immunisation Days were coordinated, and also in Africa. By 2000, the western Pacific was free.
Furthermore, in the 21st century, with further advancement, the cases fall to more than 99% globally. Here is the List of WHO’s certified polio-free regions
- South-East Asia polio-free in 2014
- African region in 2020
- In July 2021, only 2 cases of wild polio virus were recorded in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The symptoms of poliovirus
Poliovirus causes polio, it includes a variety of symptoms. It’s very important that those who have the polio virus will show symptoms, and in some situations, the virus may only manifest as a minor sickness. The following are typical signs and symptoms of polio.
In many cases who have been affected by the polio virus do not show any symptoms at all. We call this asymptomatic or subclinical polio. In these situations, the virus is successfully eliminated by the immune system without showing any symptoms.
Minor Illness (Non-paralytic Polio): Some people may have minor flu-like symptoms, such as the following:
- High temperature
- Painful throat
- Head Pain
- Rigidity in the back or neck
- Pain in the muscles
Most people recover from these symptoms in a few days or weeks, with no long-term consequences. The most severe kind of polio may result in lifelong muscular weakening or paralysis. This is known as paralytic polio. It usually manifests as:
An abrupt decrease in muscular tone or strength characterises acute flaccid paralysis.
Further classification of paralytic polio may be done into the following forms:
- Spinal Polio: This kind mainly affects the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis or weakening of the arms and legs muscles. In extreme situations, it may impair breathing muscles.
- Bulbar Polio: This affects the brainstem and may cause problems with speech, breathing, and swallowing. It often occurs in the most severe paralytic polio type.
- Bulbospinal Polio: This kind affects many bodily parts and includes characteristics of spinal and bulbar polio.
It’s critical to realise that paralytic polio is a very uncommon type of illness that is the most worrying. Furthermore, most polio virus-infected people recover entirely without developing sequelae or permanent paralysis.
The polio immunisation program has been essential in lowering the prevalence of polio and associated severe symptoms.
The reasons for poliovirus transmission
The primary method of poliovirus transmission is via the faecal-oral pathway. Here are some more specifics about its transmission:
An infected person’s faeces, or stool, is where the poliovirus is shed. The following are easy ways for the virus to spread from one person to another when basic sanitation and hygiene measures are lacking:
Food and Water Contamination
The virus may infect food and water supplies in unsanitary environments. Humans may get the virus if they ingest or come into touch with contaminated water.
Transmission may occur by direct contact with the oral secretions or faeces of an infected individual. This may happen when someone shares cutlery, changes diapers, or comes into contact with infected surfaces before touching their lips or face.
Asymptomatic Carriers: People who carry the poliovirus but do not exhibit symptoms may still excrete the virus and unintentionally spread it to others.
Hope for a polio free world
The progress toward eradication of polio offers hope for a polio-free world and showcases the remarkable potential of vaccines with international collaboration. Here’s an expansion on this hopeful prospect:
Model for Disease Eradication
The fight against polio has provided a model for addressing other infectious diseases. Lessons learned from polio eradication efforts are being applied to combat diseases such as malaria, Guinea worm disease, and COVID-19.
The Power of Vaccination
Polio vaccination campaigns have demonstrated the life-saving potential of vaccines. They protect individuals and contribute to herd immunity, reducing the overall prevalence of the virus in a community.
The global fight against polio has required unprecedented international cooperation. Governments, healthcare organisations, and volunteers from various countries have supported vaccination efforts, surveillance, and public health campaigns.
The success in polio eradication is often attributed to the involvement of local communities and healthcare workers. The prospect of a world free from the devastating effects of polio gives hope to future generations. It demonstrates that determined global efforts can overcome even the most formidable public health challenges.It is noteworthy that the prevention of the poliovirus depends on universal immunisation, access to clean water, and maintaining excellent hygiene standards. In many regions of the globe, public health initiatives have considerably slowed the virus’s transmission; nonetheless, ongoing surveillance and vaccination drives are still required to eradicate polio worldwide.
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)(2023). Polio (Poliomyelitis) Link
- World Health Organization (2023). Polio. Link
- Salk JE. (1955). Vaccination against paralytic poliomyelitis using inactivated poliovirus.
- Nathanson N, Kew OM. (2010). From emergence to eradication: the epidemiology of poliomyelitis deconstructed. American Journal of Epidemiology, 172(11), 1213-1229.