BOONE, North Carolina — Poliomyelitis, more commonly known as polio, is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the central nervous system. Polio can cause paralysis, long-term neurological conditions and in some cases, death. There is no known cure for polio, but with the help of vaccines, it is preventable. Polio is highly infectious and is passed from one person to another through sneezes, coughs or through ingestion of infected fecal matter. Polio can spread rapidly through a community, especially in lower-economic areas with poor hygiene and sanitary conditions. Below are 10 photos depicting the horrors of polio.
1. The Nerve Cell
When introduced to the human body, the polio virus attaches itself directly to the nerve cell. Even though the virus only lives in the body for approximately two weeks, the nerve damage caused by the virus could last a lifetime.
2. Unsanitary Conditions
Polio is transmitted primarily through the ingestion of material that has come in contact with the virus, which is found in stool. Not having the ability to wash hands after using the bathroom and drinking contaminated water are common culprits in the transmission of the disease, making people who live in low-income, unsanitary conditions at high risk for the virus.
Photo: A Drop of Happiness
3. Effects on Children
Because the polio virus mainly affects children under the age of 5, parents in at-risk areas should vaccinate their children as young as possible.
Source: World Heath Organization
Photo: Rotary Club of Cedar Rapids West
In one out of 200 cases of the virus, the infected party’s legs become disfigured and/or paralyzed. Of the patients who become paralyzed, 5 to 1o percent die when their muscles used to breathe become immobilized.
Source: World Heath Organization
5. Post-Polio Syndrome
Although the majority of polio patients are young children, the virus can reinfect a previous patient at an older age. This reinfection is called post-polio syndrome and is, thankfully, rarely fatal.
Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Photo: The Things That Matter
6. The Cold
7. The Iron Lung
A futuristic-looking device, the iron lung was frequently used with the treatment of polio in the past. Because of polio’s tendency to paralyze the muscles in a patients chest, doctors used the iron lung’s tank respirator to maintain respiration artificially until a patient was well enough to breathe independently.
Source: National Museum of American History
Photo: North Dakota Studies
8. Effects on the Brain
A study in New Jersey has shown that the production of chemicals can cause cognitive problems in the infected patient’s brain – particularly when the patient is under stress.
Source: Scottish Post Polio Network
Photo: Wellesley Dental Group
9. The Leg Brace
Another common contraption used by polio patients is the leg brace. These braces, usually crudely made, are used to help patients walk who have contracted muscle deformities from the virus.
Source: Polio Place
Photo: Global Polio Eradication Initiative
10. Leg Deterioration
Some patients who had paralytic polio may experience deterioration in their leg muscles after having been stable for a long time. In addition to increasing weakness in the previously damaged muscles, loss of strength and fatigue in muscles which had been functioning well has also been found.
Source: Michigan Polio Network Inc.
Photo: Africa Business
Feature Photo: Young Adult Money