Can Polio be prevented and are there treatment options?
Polio can be prevented by avoiding travel to countries where cases and outbreaks of wild-type and vaccine-derived polio are occurring.1
Additional preventative measures also include –
- Frequent, thorough handwashing with soap and clean water
- Hand sanitizer use if soap and clean water are not available
- Reducing the risk of potential exposure by avoiding hand contact with the mouth, nose or eyes
- Avoiding close contact with persons who are sick
- Refraining from sharing personal items with persons who are ill
- Using a tissue or sleeve to cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing
- Avoidance of any food and drinks that could be contaminated with feces
Polio can also be prevented by avoiding intramuscular (IM) injections and tonsillectomies in areas where the poliovirus may be circulating. Published medical research has associated both IM injections and tonsillectomies with an increased rate of paralytic polio.2 3 4 5 6 7
Approximately 95 percent of all polio cases are asymptomatic. This means that most people who are exposed to the virus will have no clinical symptoms of illness. Between 4 and 8 percent of individuals exposed to the poliovirus will develop mild symptoms, which often include flu-like illness, respiratory tract infections, and gastroenteritis.8
Approximately 1 percent of polio cases present as aseptic meningitis, and symptoms generally include severe back, neck, or leg spasms. Full recovery usually occurs within 10 days.9 Most cases of aseptic meningitis can be treated at home with the use of analgesics and anti-nausea medications; however, hospitalization may be necessary if symptoms are severe and additional medical interventions, including the use of intravenous fluids (IV), are necessary to prevent and treat complications.10
Less than 1 percent of children exposed to polio will develop paralytic polio, the most severe form of polio. 11 Treatment of paralytic polio is supportive and can include medications for pain relief, physical therapy to prevent muscle loss and deformity, and mechanical ventilation to assist with breathing, if necessary.12
Vitamin C may also be effective at treating and curing polio. In July 1949, Dr. Fred Klenner published a paper reporting that he was able to cure 100 percent of his polio patients using high doses of vitamin C.13 14
Diet has also been suggested as a way to prevent polio and researchers have reported that diets high in refined flour and sugar can increase a person’s chance of developing polio.15 16
IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Polio and the Polio vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.
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1 WHO Emergencies Preparedness, response – Poliomyelitis – Disease outbreak news No Date (accessed Jan. 30, 2020)
2 Mawdsley SE. Polio provocation: solving a mystery with the help of history. Lancet. 2014 Jul 26;384(9940):300-1.
3 Gromeier M, Wimmer E. Mechanism of injury-provoked poliomyelitis. J Virol. 1998 Jun;72(6):5056-60.
4 Strebel PM, Ion-Nedelcu N, Baughman AL Intramuscular injections within 30 days of immunization with oral poliovirus vaccine--a risk factor for vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis. N Engl J Med. 1995 Feb 23;332(8):500-6.
5 Siegel M, Greenberg M, Magee MC. Tonsillectomy and poliomyelitis. II. Frequency of bulbar paralysis, 1944-1949. J Pediatr. 1951 May;38(5):548-58.
6 Greenberg M, Abramson H, Cooper HM, Solomon HE. The relation between recent injections and paralytic poliomyelitis in children. Am J Public Health Nations Health. 1952 Feb;42(2):142-52.
7Tonsillectomy and Poliomyelitis Am J Public Health Nations Health. 1954 Aug; 44(8): 1065–1067.
8 Mehndiratta MM, Mehndiratta P, Pande R Poliomyelitis Historical Facts, Epidemiology, and Current Challenges in Eradication Neurohospitalist. 2014 Oct; 4(4): 223–229
10 Ramachandran, TS Aseptic Meningitis Treatment & Management – Approach Considerations Medscape Jul. 17, 2018
11 Mehndiratta MM, Mehndiratta P, Pande R Poliomyelitis Historical Facts, Epidemiology, and Current Challenges in Eradication Neurohospitalist. 2014 Oct; 4(4): 223–229
12 Mayo Clinic Polio – Diagnosis & treatment Dec. 9, 2017
13 KLENNER FR. The treatment of poliomyelitis and other virus diseases with vitamin C. South Med Surg. 1949 Jul;111(7):209-14.
14 Landwehr R The Origin of the 40-Year Stonewall of Vitamin C J Orthomol Med. 1991; 6(2): 99-103
15 Sandler B Diet Prevents Polio Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1951
16 van Meer F. Poliomyelitis: the role of diet in the development of the disease. Med Hypotheses. 1992 Mar;37(3):171-8.