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What is Polio?
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease that can elicit no symptoms, or can lead to paralysis and even death. The word “polio” derives from the Greek, and means “grey” in reference to the spinal cord. “-Itis” refers to inflammation.
Evidence suggests that the effects of polio have been around for centuries. English Physician Michael Underwood provided the first clinical description of polio in 1789. In 1840, Jakob Heine determined that polio was an acute infectious disease. Karl Landsteiner discovered the infectious agent, poliovirus, in 1908. While historically not known in the world as a major illness, polio quickly became a highly dreaded illness in the early 20th century where we still see pictures of people in iron lungs whose lungs were paralyzed by the illnesses. This was the most severe type of polio and affected a very small segment of the population. Oddly, the virus has existed in the world for centuries, but became rampant in the early 1900s, causing paralysis in thousands of children and adults alike. Polio is rarely found in the US but still a problem in third world countries. This is because of lack of sanitation, poor nutrition and lack of clean water. As improvements were made in the US in these areas, polio, like all the other infectious illnesses declined dramatically. FACT: The polio vaccines were introduced decades after marked decline in death was noted and in areas where the polio vaccine was implemented, polio infections began to rise up again. (1) (2) Types of Polio Polio can cause many different forma of illness, some mild and others more serious. The type of polio depends on how it affects the nerves of the body. The most common type referenced is paralysis of the spine, which can also affects the legs. A second common type of polio is bulbar polio, which weakens muscles. There is a third type of severe polio that is a combination of these two, known as bulbospinal paralysis.
How Do You Get Polio?
Polio is caused by a virus that enters the body via the mouth. Poliovirus replicates itself after entering the first cells in which it comes into contact, begins to spread throughout the body, and is absorbed into the blood. After the polio vaccines were introduced, people were getting exposed to the virus from the saliva and feces of infants who were given the polio vaccine. The virus was meant to re-expose people who were caring for children, changing their diapers or feeding them. (This has been well documented and is discussed in article, Dangers of the Polio Vaccine) As with all viruses, the health of the host will determine how the person reacts to the virus.
Polio has two basic patterns. There is a minor illness, which does not affect the nerves or central nervous system which is much like the common influenza (flu), and there is a major illness, which does, and in one percent of those cases, may become paralytic. Only about 3% of infections affect the central nervous system. The rest of the time, the illness rarely has any symptoms at all—only occasionally are there sore throats, fever, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or other flu-like symptoms. Polio can last as long as 17 weeks.
Are Vaccines Safe and Effective- Neil Miller
World Health Statistic Annual- DISEASES WERE ON THEIR WAY OUT, epidemics have their own lifespan 1973-1976 Vol. 2
Sources: Wikipedia – poliomyelitis www.medicalnewstoday.com/printerfirendlynews.php?newsid=155580 polio.emedtv.com/polio/polio-history.html
Polio is spread easily between people by close contact or from diapers and saliva of children who received the polio vaccine. It is contracted through the mouth, usually through infected food or water, but also from person to person. Although very rare in the United States, Polio can be highly contagious, and in households with an infected person, it is thought that a 100% rate of transmission to children and 90% rate of transmission to adults in that same household will occur. If previously exposed, a person may not show any symptoms.
Poliovirus is seasonal, much like the influenza virus but peaks in summer and autumn months in temperate climates. Common in many infectious illnesses, the poliovirus lives in the intestinal tract of the infected person, as well as the mucus membranes of the nose and throat. Transmission is most common through the feces of the infected person, via contamination with food or water that has become infected. This kind of transmission is known as fecal-oral transmission. This can happen through:
- Contact with the virus through a contaminated surface, such as through diaper changing.
- Contamination of food or water.
- Contact with the virus through sharing food or drink with an infected person.
It is possible to contract polio through saliva, but this is rare. This type of transmission is known as oral-oral transmission, and occurs when the virus is expelled from the infected person through their respiratory system, as in water droplets from breathing, sneezing, or coughing.
Polio symptoms only occur in very few cases of infection and may look like the common influenza (flu). Symptoms may show up within three days of infection, or as long as 35 days later. The common range for symptoms to appear is from six to 20 days. The virus is most contagious 7-10 days before and after the appearance of symptoms. Those with weakened or not strong immune systems are most likely to suffer from the harmful effects of polio infection. The very young and old, pregnant women, and others with weakened immune systems are susceptible to falling ill from polio.
Symptoms of polio infection include:
- Abnormal nerve sensations (pins and needles)
- Asymmetrical weakness in the arms or legs
- Difficulty breathing, which can become serious and even cause death
- Difficulty swallowing
- High fever
- Mood swings
- Muscle pain or muscle spasms
- Stiffness in the back or neck
- Urinary retention
Paralysis from polio usually develops from 1-10 days after the first symptoms. Paralysis may last for up to 3 days, and then usually subsides by the time the fever breaks. Muscle weakness and disability often persists in people that may last for many years or come back as a person ages.
Sources: Polio.emedtv.com/polio/how-is-polio-spread.html www.medicinenet.com/polio.htm Wikipedia
Once infected, there is no cure for polio; the infection must run the course. Treatment involves treating the symptoms, and trying to give the person comfort. Severe cases may need medical treatment and help with breathing. Major symptoms that may be treated include:
- Breathing difficulties
- High fever
- Muscle soreness and pain
Historically, in the turn of the century through the mid 1900s when polio was a huge problem in this country, medical treatment included the famous “iron lung” in which patients were encapsulated inside a machine that forced pressure changes in the air volume, and subsequently, forced the lungs to try to expand to fill the vacuums created by the machinery. The machinery created a breathing mechanism for the body, and actually worked to save many lives. The negative aspects of the iron lung were the cost, its size, and the fact that patients were sometimes encapsulated in its chambers for months, years, or even life.
Another medical treatment of old is the “rocking bed” which was another method for helping patients breathe more easily. This bed would rock back and forth working with gravity to help the diaphragm expand and contract to assist in the lungs filling up and releasing air.
Historical treatment of the paralytic symptoms included what was called the Kenny regimen, and involved placing the paralyzed limbs (often the legs) in splints or plaster casts, with the idea that rest would heal them. Because of lack of understanding on joint, muscle and bone physiology, when these casts were left on for months, what occurred was a debilitating atrophy of the muscle tissue. We now know that this is not the treatment for this polio.
Modern treatments include comfort from symptoms, as well as preventive measures against complications. This may include an antibiotic regimen, pain medication, physical therapy, and possibly orthopedics or orthopedic surgery. “Bed rest” may be prescribed, as well as use of ventilators or breathing treatments.
Natural treatments include cool baths, sponge baths, and cool compresses to relieve fever symptoms. Soaking in detoxifying baths can also help such as Epsom Salt. Herbal remedies may also be used to relieve breathing difficulties, such as eucalyptus or mint.
The Immune System
The immune system’s role in fighting polio is remarkably significant. This disease is incredibly potent when it “grabs hold” of a person’s body, therefore a strong immune system makes every difference in fending off the adverse effects of the poliovirus. The thousands of people affected by polio were largely those with immature or weakened immune systems, lacking in good nutrition or were most susceptible.
Polio may not make a person sick immediately. Once the virus is inside the person’s body, it may be 7-14 days before any symptoms appear. Polio can incubate to maturity from 4-35 days, but is most commonly incubated from 6-20 days.
Polio symptoms usually subside, but they can leave a trail of damage behind them, in the form of damaged and weakened limbs, muscle fatigue, breathing issues, and soreness, for years. These symptoms can appear many years after recovery from polio, sometimes 15 or 30 years later and are known as post-polio syndrome.
Polio was a dreaded disease and those who witnessed polio in family members lived in fear of the disease. We now know so much more about infectious illnesses and the role that our environment, nutrition and sanitation plays in helping us to stay healthy. Polio is still a terrible illness unfortunately plaguing the poor nations across the globe that do not have the advantage of sanitation, clean water and good nutrition. The answer is not the vaccine….these countries are often given vaccines we no longer use that are full of Thimerosal (ethyl mercury) and are over-vaccinated from years of experimentation by large pharmaceutical companies. To help them, we should invest in sanitation, clean water wells, help them grow foods and empower them to be self sufficient.
Just imagine what Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, who are hell-bent on getting the whole world vaccinated, could do for this globe if he invested in ways to really help these countries!
The risks of polio infection have changed over time. Polio has been with the human race for centuries, but it has been in our recent history that polio infection has reached endemic proportions. In the first half of the 20th century, pandemics occurred in North America, Australia, Europe, and New Zealand. By 1950, children in age group from 5-9 years old were the most likely to become infected, and sadly, the most likely to experience paralytic symptoms. In 1952, before sanitation was wide spread across the country in the United States, 58,000 people contracted polio. Of these, 3,145 died, and 21,269 were left with paralytic symptoms or disabilities. Death from Polio was decreasing dramatically from the early 1900’s to the mid 1970s when it had dropped by over 90%. Currently, the world is full of polio survivors: 40,000 people in Germany are survivors of polio, as well as 30,000 people in Japan, 24,000 people in France, 16,000 people in Australia, and 12,000 people in Canada and another 12,000 in the UK.
Current Polio Outbreaks
Polio is endemic in countries that are underdeveloped and lack in the basic sanitation facilities and therefore, traveling to these places increases risk for contracting polio. Other risk factors include living with a person who has polio, or working in a facility where the poliovirus is kept alive such as vaccine manufactures or laboratories or getting an older polio vaccine that was the source of polio until the mid 1990s. Another risk factor includes having your tonsils removed. Back in the early 1900s, the surgery removing tonsils was very common. In a book called, Polio Pointers, I found this quote, “As both tonsillectomies and polio increased, a horrifying correlation emerged: Children who’d had a tonsillectomy were more likely to get a certain type of polio (infection of the bulbar region of the brain stem) than children who had not had a tonsillectomy. This became common knowledge. Polio Pointers said “don’t have mouth or throat operations during a polio outbreak.” In 1954, the American Journal of Public Health ran an editorial summarizing the link between tonsillectomy and polio. They showed evidence that bulbar polio was three times more likely in those children who had tonsillectomies. This would affect the polio statistics greatly. Perhaps the practice of tonsillectomy was increasing the polio incidence in children.
Other complications that can develop in people who are already fighting infections are:
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Cor pulmonale (heart failure)
- High blood pressure
- Kidney stones
- Loss of intestinal function
- Lung problems
- Paralysis of muscles
- Muscle disability or deformity
- Pulmonary edema
Urinary tract infections Other Complications Post-polio syndrome is another complication that can develop in 25-50% of those who survive paralytic polio. Post-polio syndrome can occur decades later, and includes new muscle weakness and fatigue. How long ago a person had the acute poliovirus, how much damage was done at the time, and the use of neurons are all factors in the development of post-polio syndrome. Persons who experience this syndrome are not re-infected, and nor are they contagious or carriers of the virus. Statistics for Polio Most cases of polio never develop symptoms. These cases are classified as asymptomatic, and account for about 95% of all cases. Cases in which symptoms are present account for 4-8% of all polio cases, and of these, 0.1-2% of these develop into the severe form known as paralytic polio. This can also be stated as 1 to 5 per 1000 cases can develop into paralysis. Though children are at greater risk of developing polio and symptoms, adults are more likely to develop paralysis when infection occurs. Cases in children develop into paralysis in one out of every 1000 cases, whereas cases in adults develop into paralysis in 75 out of 1000 cases. Children will most likely develop paralysis in only one leg, whereas adults are more likely to develop more severe paralysis, such as of the chest and torso, or both legs, or even quadriplegia. As with all infectious illness, we need to promote health with good nutrition, personal hygiene, a healthy life-style focusing on a strong immune system where we can fight whatever comes our way. We never can predict what we are going to be exposed to in this world where people travel the globe and live in large metropolitan cities.
Polio can be prevented through naturally acquired immunity from natural exposure. Many people have immunity even though they never expressed the disease. For others, there is the risk that infection can develop due to natural exposure. The threat of polio in the US is very rare so we do not hear much about the disease. Because the symptoms of some types of polio are similar to other infectious illnesses like meningitis or influenza infection, it is very hard to know if polio is completely gone in this country. Also, the disease of polio has been reclassified as meningitis when convenient.
Prevention of infectious diseases depends on many factors. The best plan of action is to have a very strong immune system, and a lifestyle that contributes to a healthy immune system. For children and the elderly, or others with immature or weakened immune systems, there is a greater risk of infection. Almost all cases of polio in the US were directly related to the live polio vaccine until the late 1990s when we stopped giving the vaccine. In 1976, Jonas Salk testified in court that the live-virus vaccine was the sole cause of all of the polio since the 1960’s in the USA. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also acknowledged that the vaccine was the dominant cause of polio. This fact was documented by several other sources. It appears that the #1 way to avoid polio is to avoid the vaccine. Persons who contract the poliovirus whether they develop symptoms or not, may develop life-long immunity. However, there are varying serotypes of the virus, and the person must have contracted the same serotype to be immune to it in the future.
The Role of Sanitation in Prevention of Polio
Poor sanitation is a key player in the spread of the poliovirus. As the population numbers increased in fast growing cities in the United States before modern sanitation, so did the incidence of polio. Sanitation and waste water treatment was not implemented until the introduction of federal funding in 1948. As sanitation improved in the US, exposure to polio decreased. A source of polio prior to water filtration and mass sanitation was public swimming pools and small lakes where young children often urinated or passed feces in the water. Human feces was dumped into rivers and lakes and got into the water systems. As the water warmed up in the Spring and Summer months, the bacteria would multiply and infect those who came in contact with it. Early swimming pools did not use chlorine or other sanitizing measures and therefore, were breeding grounds for infections.
With the increase in environmental consciousness, the understanding of how bacteria caused illnesses and the up-scaling of financing in the 1970s, sanitation and waste water treatment became a key issue in fighting these infectious illnesses. By the 1970s, waste treatment was common in all major cities. For decades federal funding for water supply and sanitation was provided through grants to local governments. After 1987 the system was changed to loans through revolving funds. Prior to waste water treatment, there was a direct correlation to the number of people infected with polio.
Natural Immunity and Vaccination
There was an aspect of the increase in polio that allowed many people to gain natural immunity through exposure to the virus. During the early epidemics, as many as 20,000 people became paralyzed from the illness but many who were infected recovered completely with no residual problems.
In 1950, polio was still a public concern. William Hammon is attributed with creating the first vaccination, which was a passive vaccine. He took the blood of infected patients, which contained the antibodies to the virus, and created a preventive serum with the gamma globulin. This means that it did not contain the live virus; rather encouraged the body to produce more antibodies. The results were very promising, in that 80% of the recipients did not develop paralytic polio, and those that developed symptomatic polio had greatly reduced symptoms.
The medical vaccines that have evolved from Hammon’s work are controversial. The first vaccine for polio was released in 1952. Jonas Salk combined 3 viruses that were grown on animal organ cultures from the kidneys of African Green Monkeys. He then “killed” the viruses and it was given intramuscularly. The first public polio vaccination campaign started in 1955 when children were vaccinated before starting kindergarten. It was known as inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) and is still in use today. It is made of the killed virus (hence, inactivated), and works in such as a way as to allow the body to develop antibodies to the virus. Salk’s vaccine, because of the serious and pandemic nature of polio, became what is thought of as the greatest medical experiment in history, because the vaccine was eventually being tested in literally thousands of people throughout the world. The American children were lined up in schools across the country and given the polio vaccine. It seems to be a successful experiment, in that total infected cases were around 58,000, and post-vaccine, they dropped to 5,600. That also is when public health sanitation systems were going in around the country.
Albert Sabin developed an oral polio vaccine (OPV) in 1957, which used the living but weakened virus. This weakened state is referred to medically as “attenuated.” Sabin’s vaccine also became mass introduced and used, further dropping numbers of cases.
There is a risk of vaccine-associated paralytic polio. There have been a total of 152 cases of paralytic polio (meaning that the person did in fact develop paralysis) between 1980 and 1999. Of those 152 cases, 144 of them were determined to be caused by the oral polio vaccine. Due to this, the OPV was phased out, and only the IPV is in use today.
If you never visit a third-world country where they do not have sanitation, waster water filtration and their water is polluted with human/animal waste, polio should not be a problem. Focus on promoting health and living a clean life with good personal hygiene. Learn the role of natural immunity and know that the way to avoid infectious illnesses is through your own strong immune system. (See articles under Natural Immunity)
Currently in the United States there are no deaths from polio and no wild polio cases in the past several decades. Death from polio in other countries only affects five to ten percent of paralytic polio cases. Most people who are healthy and have good nutrition and get polio, recover with little or no residual effects. Those who die are usually sick, immune compromised or malnourished.
Polio can be asymptomatic (causing no symptoms), or symptomatic (causing symptoms). Symptomatic polio can be termed spinal polio or paralytic polio, if the infection creates symptoms of paralysis. The paralysis tends to affect the legs, especially in children, but can also affect the chest, torso, and even arms, particularly in adults. The paralysis can be acute – meaning it will only last for a few days, and in rare cases, the paralysis may continue after the fever has left. Regardless of the type of paralysis, the damage done to the muscle structure often leaves the patient with disabilities. Spinal polio is very rarely fatal, although during an acute infectious state, a person can develop breathing difficulties to the degree that it can cause suffocation or pneumonia.
Statistically, in years past children were less likely to die than adults: 2-5% of children with paralytic polio die from it, whereas 15-30% of adults with paralytic polio die. No current statistics are available.
Polio may leave its victims disabled, and survivors of polio constitute the largest disabled group world-wide. According to the CDC, there are 10 to 20 million survivors alive worldwide: 254,000 in the US, 40,000 in Germany, 30,000 in Japan, 24,000 in France, 16,000 in Australia, 12,000 in Canada, and 12,000 in the UK. It is not know if the source of polio was from the wild virus or the vaccines. Unfortunately, this information is not readily available. It is noted however that almost all the cases in the United States in the 1970’s forward were caused by the oral polio vaccine. This is referred to as iatrogenic polio. In 5 states, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, the number of polio cases doubled in all states within one year of implementing the polio program in 1955-1956. (2) The use of OPV was discontinued in the United States in 2000 and in 2004 in the UK, but it continues to be used around the globe. (3)
http://pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=68352&sid=1- Experts call WHO & Bill Gates Foundation’s role in India’s polio eradication campaign unethical. Ramesh Shankar, Mumbai Thursday, April 05, 2012
Neil Miller, Are Vaccines Safe?