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What is polio disease?

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Quick Answer

Polio is a highly contagious viral disease that affects the nervous system. Polio is passed from one person to another and mostly affects children under three years of age, states WebMD. Polio in its most serious form leads to paralysis, breathing difficulties and occasionally death.

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The most serious but rare form of polio that leads to paralysis is known as paralytic polio, according to Mayo Clinic. Paralytic polio varies in type depending on the part of the body that is affected. Spinal polio affects the spinal cord, bulbar polio affects the brain, and bulbospinal polio affects both the brain and the spinal cord. The precise symptoms associated with paralytic polio include loss of reflexes, acute muscle pain or weakness, and flaccid limbs, normally on one side of the body.

Nonparalytic polio, or abortive polio, is a form of polio that does not lead to paralysis. Symptoms of this type of polio resemble those of the flu and of other viral diseases. These symptoms last anywhere between one and 10 days and include fever, headache, fatigue, sore throat and vomiting, notes Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms include pain and stiffness in the limbs, back and neck; muscle weakness; and meningitis.

People who become infected with polio continue to suffer from post-polio syndrome several years after the infection. These symptoms include gradual muscle or joint weakness and pain, fatigue and exhaustion following minimal activity, reduced tolerance to cold temperatures, depression, sleep-related problems, and cognitive problems, states Mayo Clinic.

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