Poliomyelitis, also known as infantile paralysis or simply as polio, is an exceedingly infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system, potentially leading to partial or full paralysis. This term is derived from ancient Greek words “polios”, meaning gray, and “myelos”, meaning marrow. These refer to the gray matter of the spinal cord, and completed by the suffix –it is, meaning inflammation. Thus the term generally refers to the inflammation of the gray matter of the spinal cord.

Polio used to be a global epidemic, affecting people of different places by the thousands. The great epidemic (which has left many of its victims paralyzed) was halted with the discovery of the polio vaccine sometime in the 1950s. From a frequency that has reached up to hundreds of thousands in the past couple of decades, it is now down to less than a thousand cases in the present day.



This condition is caused by poliovirus, which is spread either through the fecal-oral route or direct contact with an infected person and/or his body fluids, especially those from the nose or mouth.The incubation period for poliomyelitis is set at an average of 1 to 2 weeks, but can range from 3 days to 1 month.

The virus enters the body through the mouth and/or nose, and it proliferates in the throat and intestinal tract, where it is easily absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed to the lymphatic system. Once the virus has invaded lymphoid tissues, the bloodstream can carry it to affect the cells and tissues of the central nervous system. The damage it causes to the nerves then causes the signs and symptoms of this condition.

The risk factors for polio include exposure to the virus especially in an area that has an existing polio outbreak, and not being vaccinated from the condition. Polio outbreaks are still happening in developing countries such as those in Africa and some parts of Asia, but the rigorous global campaign concerning polio vaccination has greatly reduced the existence of this condition by approximately 90% during the past 20 years.


Signs and Symptoms

Polio infections have three distinct types:

  • Sub-Clinical Polio. This accounts for up to 95% of polio cases where affected individuals may be asymptomatic. This type of polio infection does not affect the brain and the spinal cord of the central nervous system. If symptoms do manifest for this type of polio infection, they typically last for a maximum of 72 hours only. It may include headaches, slight or low-grade fever, vomiting, sore throat and generalized body discomfort.
  • Non-Paralytic Polio. This type of infection produces only mild signs and symptoms, and it does not involve paralysis, although it does affect the CNS. Duration for this infection lasts from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, fatigue, vomiting, difficulty swallowing or breathing; stiff neck (forward flexion), pain and stiffness in the extremities, and muscle spasms and tenderness.
  • Paralytic Polio. The most severe form of polio infection, but is probably the rarest type. It usually results either in partial of full paralysis. Paralytic polio has three types: spinal, bulbar, and bulbospinal polio. Paralytic polio has the same signs and symptoms of non-paralytic polio, with the addition of the following: severe muscle pain and spasms, loss of reflexes, loss of muscle tone and control in the limbs, paralysis that may be temporary or permanent, and deformity in the lower extremities.

A complication may occur after an individual has recovered from polio; this is referred to as post-polio syndrome. This occurs as late as 35 years after the onset of the infection.



Polio infections do not have a cure, thus it is very essential that it be prevention with vaccination in the first place. However, if the unfortunate event of an infection does exist, the management would include treatment of the symptoms while the virus does its thing. Treatment options usually include rest, analgesics for muscle pain, antibiotics for specific infections, ventilators and oxygen therapy for respiratory problems, physical therapy and corrective braces for mobilization, and other therapies to ease the muscle pain and spasms, among others.


Disability Tax Credits for Poliomyelitis

Poliomyelitis is a condition that affects the respiration and mobilization of an individual. If your child has been diagnosed with polio, he/she may benefit from the disability savings plan from the Canadian Revenue Agency. Or if you’ve been affected by polio previously, you can also file for disability tax credits. Know your disability tax options by placing that call to HandyTax now.