Poliomyelitis

Alternative Names

Polio; Infantile paralysis; Post-polio syndrome

Definition of Poliomyelitis

Poliomyelitis is a viral disease that can affect nerves and can lead to partial or full paralysis.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Poliomyelitis is a disease caused by infection with the poliovirus. The virus spreads by direct person-to-person contact, by contact with infected mucus or phlegm from the nose or mouth, or by contact with infected feces.

Symptoms

There are three basic patterns of polio infection: subclinical infections, nonparalytic, and paralytic. Approximately 95% of infections are subclinical infections, which may not have symptoms.

Signs and tests

The health care provider may find signs of meningeal irritation (similar to ), such as stiff neck or back stiffness with difficulty bending the neck. The person also might have difficulty lifting the head or lifting the legs when lying flat on the back, and their reflexes might be abnormal.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to control symptoms while the infection runs its course.

Expectations (prognosis)

What to expect depends on the form of the disease (subclinical, nonparalytic, or paralytic) and the site affected. If the spinal cord and brain are not involved, which is the case more than 90% of the time, complete recovery is likely.

Review

Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/28/2009

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Poliomyelitis

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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