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The Effects of Polio

Affinity Health is a leading provider of high-quality health cover. Here are their views on polio and its life-threatening dangers.


What is Polio?

Polio is short for the life-threatening disease called Poliomyelitis. It is dangerous and very contagious. Polio spreads through person-to-person contact. It lives in an infected throat and intestines.


Polio symptoms range from mild flu-like symptoms to life-threatening paralysis. The symptoms of polio may also vary in severity. Polio causes lifelong paralysis of the limbs, legs, or respiratory muscles in less than 1% of cases. It is fatal within 5 and 10% of cases. A person may contract symptoms between three and twenty-one days after exposure. The virus will be most contagious within seven to ten days before and after the onset of symptoms.


People are prone to infection as long as the virus is in their faeces. That can last up to six weeks. The virus often lingers in the throat for one to two weeks. Post-polio syndrome is a collection of potentially disabling signs and symptoms. They manifest decades after the initial polio infection. Post-polio signs and symptoms often manifest within thirty to forty years after recovery.

What are the Symptoms of Post-Polio?

Common post-polio syndrome signs and symptoms include:

  • Muscle and joint pain and weakness that worsens over time
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of muscular tissue (atrophy)
  • Problems breathing or swallowing
  • Sleep apnoea


The following factors can raise your risk of acquiring post-polio syndrome:

Initial polio infection severity:

Severity correlates with the chances of developing post-polio syndrome.


Age at the commencement of the first illness:

Adolescent or adult polio increases the chances of post-polio syndrome. Chances are higher than in those who survive childhood polio.


Quick recovery from acute polio increases the chances of developing post-polio. That may be because a higher recovery rate increases the strain on motor neurons.


Extreme physical exertion:

Frequent exercise to the point of extreme lethargy raises the likelihood of post-polio.

Complications of Post-Polio Syndrome

Post-polio syndrome can be fatal. But significant muscle weakness can result in the following complications:


Leg muscle weakness makes it easier to fall. You may fracture a bone, such as your hip, resulting in extra difficulties.



Post-polio patients experience frequent fatigue that may be disabling. The fatigue may cause focus and memory difficulties.



Musculoskeletal disorders and muscular weakness can contribute to persistent discomfort.


People may also experience bulbar polio. Bulbar polio affects the nerves that allow chewing and swallowing. Patients struggle with eating and may develop malnutrition.


Chronic respiratory failure:

Weak diaphragm and chest muscles make it more difficult to breathe and cough. That can lead to fluid and mucus accumulation in the lungs.


Prolonged inactivity leads to the loss of bone density and osteoporosis in everyone. Discuss the post-polio syndrome and bone density screenings with your doctor.


Sleep problems:

Post-polio syndrome leads to sleep apnoea and restless legs syndrome. Untreated, these sleep disturbances may exacerbate insomnia and exhaustion.

Immunisation against Polio

Immunisation is the most effective means of preventing polio. CDC encourages parents to immunise all infants and young children. Children should receive the polio vaccine at two, four, and six months old.


At age four, all children should receive a booster dose of the following:


Learn More: Should You Vaccinate Your Infant?


Immunisation against Polio for Adults

Adults should ensure they receive the polio vaccine. Polio immunisation for adults consists of three injections administered four weeks apart.


“In South Africa, the last case of polio appeared in 1989. But polio can occur anywhere in the world. It can be imported and spread easily,” says Murray Hewlett, Affinity Health CEO.


Parents ought to ensure their children’s vaccinations are up to date. Parents should also ensure they get vaccinated.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is the leading provider of affordable medical insurance in South Africa. Members enjoy access to a network of healthcare providers. We have designed healthcare products to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


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