Polio

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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What are polio symptoms and signs?

Fortunately, the vast majority of patients who are infected with polioviruses showed little or no symptoms and, in fact, don't know that they actually had an infection with polioviruses. Those patients who do show symptoms can be placed in one of two major groups; non-paralytic polio (minor) and paralytic polio (major).

Non-paralytic polio infections develop flu-like symptoms that consist of fever, sore throat, headache, malaise, and muscle stiffness (neck, back). These symptoms last about 10-20 days and they completely resolve. Although paralytic polio symptoms mimic the non-paralytic polio symptoms for about a week, increasing symptoms of severe muscle aches and spasms, loss of reflexes, and flaccid paralysis (limbs become floppy) begin to develop. In some individuals, the paralysis may occur very quickly (within a few hours after infection occurs). Sometimes the paralysis is only on one side of the body. The musculature involved with breathing may become inhibited or nonfunctional, and these patients need assistance with breathing.

Post-polio syndrome describes symptoms that develop in patients about 30 to 40 years after an acute polio illness. The cause is unknown. Post-polio syndrome symptoms include

Slowly progressive muscle weakness (any muscles, including the eye muscles and sometimes termed bulbar polio), generalized fatigue, and cold intolerance may also occur.

How do physicians diagnose polio?

A physician may make a preliminary diagnosis of polio from the patient's history and physical examination. For example, if the patient has not been vaccinated and has had contact with individuals who have polio and has symptoms such as muscle stiffness and difficulty with limb movements, breading or swallowing, then a preliminary diagnosis is made.

A definitive diagnosis is done by cultivating poliovirus from the patient's mucus, stool, and/or cerebrospinal fluid. In addition, there are serological tests that detect antibodies directed against poliovirus.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/17/2016

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  • Polio -- Patient Experience

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