Polio is the abbreviation for the disease known as poliomyelitis. It is a common viral disease that usually runs an asymptomatic or mild course, characterized by upper respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms. The virus may progress to involve the central nervous system and result in either a non-paralytic or a paralytic form of the disease. Poliomyelitis is endemic (meaning that it lives within populations) and has epidemic flare-ups (there is a maximum frequency for this from July to September in temperate zones). As with most transmittable diseases, it is spread by coughing but also by the oral-faecal route (a carrier with polio in the bowel may prepare food without washing off the virus after their last visit to the toilet). Faecal contamination of water and flies are other vectors.
Immunization against polio is available for those in the Western world but for the majority, their own immune system is their only defence. As with all contagious diseases, the health of the individual is the deciding factor on whether polio will come and go and confer a lifelong immunity or strike and create the feared neurological result.
Subclinical polio occurs in 95 per cent of those infected. The immune system fights the battle and the infection may not have been recognized. This form is a mild non-specific illness causing cough or flu-like symptoms or a gastrointestinal disturbance such as diarrhoea.
The non-paralytic form is a meningitis-like illness causing fever, headache and a stiff neck. Less than one per cent of individuals infected may have the paralytic form, which starts with a headache, general illness and muscular pains. Fever, neck stiffness and muscle tenderness may be present. This then leads to severe muscle pains, an inability to move the parts affected and, if the brain is contaminated, difficulty in swallowing and talking. At worst, respiratory paralysis may occur in five per cent of these rare cases, usually due to complications of respiratory paralysis. Patients showing even very severe paralysis may make a reasonable recovery over two years. Only in occasional instances does a permanent paralysis remain.
See Influenza and Herpes simplex, because the basic antiviral advice given for these conditions should be followed for polio.
If meningitis is the outcome, see Meningitis.
Recovery will benefit from constitutional homeopathic repair and as soon as a diagnosis is made use the remedy Lathyrus 30, four times a day, until a more suitable remedy may be chosen.
Through the recovery phase, osteopathy, chiropractic, Rolfing and Feldenkrais have been shown to benefit.
If any residual paralysis remains, the Alexander technique, polarity therapy, yoga or Qi Gong (Chi Kung) should be studied.
Marma therapy and neurotherapy, branches of Ayurvedic physical therapy, can be used also.