Polio symptoms: ‘flu-like’ side effects could be a sign of polio infection

The virus responsible for polio was thought to have been eradicated from the UK in 2003, although the recent detection of several ‘genetically linked viruses’ in London sewage has raised alarm bells. While it’s common for one to three’vaccine-like’ poliovirus to be detected every year in sewage samples in the UK, knowing the main symptoms of this life-threatening infection is essential to seek immediate treatment. Here are the most common signs to look out for if you think you are at risk of getting polio.

The vaccination means polio is now very rare in most parts of the world and has not been found in the UK for almost 20 years.

According to NHSthis contagious infection is mainly found in two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan, and can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Poliomyelitis can also be caught from food or water that has come in contact with the poo of someone infected with the virus.

The effects of poliovirus can lead to paralysis once the virus infects a person’s spinal cord, but what exactly should you look for in terms of visible symptoms?

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What are the long-term symptoms of polio?

The risk of paralysis is not the only lifelong difficulty associated with poliomyelitis.

There are several other long-term symptoms that can continue to impact the body beyond healing the infection.

If you have had polio before, you may develop symptoms again or your symptoms may get worse, sometimes decades later. This is called post-polio syndrome (PPS).

According to the British Polio Fellowship, a charity that has supported people living with the effects of polio and post-polio syndrome for over 80 years, signs of PPS include:

  • Persistent fatigue (extreme fatigue)
  • Muscular weakness
  • Muscles that shrink
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Sleep Apnea

The UK Polio Fellowship (BPF) said: “The condition can have a significant impact on day-to-day life, making it very difficult to move around and perform certain tasks and activities.

“Symptoms tend to get progressively worse over many years, but it happens very slowly and treatment can help slow it down further.”

While post-polio syndrome is rarely life-threatening, some people develop breathing and swallowing difficulties that can lead to serious problems, such as lung infections.

Unlike poliomyelitis, PPS is not contagious as it is believed to be caused by the dormant virus existing in your body reactivating years after the initial infection.

The BPF explained: “It is unclear why only some people who have had polio develop post-polio syndrome.

“Those who had severe polio when they were younger may be more likely to develop the disease.”

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