Today is World Polio Day with the theme, ‘End Polio Now’ The World Polio Day is celebrated with one primary objective – the complete eradication of polio from all the parts of the world, making the world ‘Polio Free’. We also use this occasion to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who was instrumental to the development of the first vaccine for Poliomyelitis and the efforts of everyone committed to the cause – a polio-free world!
In honor of this day, I repeat the post below – as relevant today as it was years ago when I first wrote it.
A couple of years ago, I was notified of a case that involved one of the hospitals on our private Health Insurance scheme and the child of one of our enrollees. This child had a fever that had been on for a couple of days and so the parents were not comfortable anymore and decided to go to the hospital. Predictably, the hospital decided to place this child on antibiotics irrespective of the fact that nothing pointed to the fact that this anything more than a viral infection.
This child could take orally and could very well have taken this unnecessary antibiotic by mouth, but for some reason (whether by request from the child’s parents who wanted something they perceived to be more potent or as a show of ‘we know what we are doing here’ by the hospital staff), a decision was made to administer this drug through intramuscular injection (in English, injection into the muscle…in this case, the butt specifically). To cut a long story short, a while later we got involved as we received a letter from the company of the child’s parent stating that the hospital was incompetent and administered an injection that made the child lose function of her lower limbs. We stepped in and eventually, the gist of the story was that this child was incubating the wild polio virus and the intramuscular injection this child had received converted this to paralytic polio! In English, this child now found it difficult to walk. Just like that!!!
Okay, why am I telling this story? Well, first it was world Polio day on the 24th of October…sometime last week. As the events to mark the day were rolled out, I thought about this case I’d just told you about and I wondered about that child and how much use of her limbs she has now. Then I wondered how many other parents coerce their health care providers to give ‘stronger’ medicine in the form of injections so that their children would be better, quicker? How many healthcare providers fall for this ‘persuasion’ or even sometimes, downright ‘instructions’ from their patients or patient’s parents? How many even have an idea of how Polio is transmitted and how they can effectively guard against this? If you don’t have the right knowledge, you’ll fall for anything. A good example of this is a story I heard about a quack practitioner somewhere in the country a couple of years ago who made money off hardworking traders by claiming that he could help them wash out the impurities in their blood. For the people who fell for this scam, he would admit them into his ‘hospital’ and then set up an infusion with diuretics in it. In simple terms, diuretics are drugs that make you urinate a lot. So the guy sets this up and then fixes a urinary catheter (a tube that collects urine from a person’s bladder into a urine bag) for them so they can see the quantity of urine their bodies were making. The impurities were meant to be in the vast amounts of urine being poured out! I am just shaking my mind at the amazing gullibility and ignorance that makes us fall for anything and makes unscrupulous people take advantage of us. By the way, this guy was picked up by the police some time back.
But, I digress…back to the Polio discourse. How is the polio virus spread? It is spread through faeco-oral contact. I will describe this. A child with the wild polio virus defecates and sheds the virus in his or her poo. This faeces can contaminate water sources or can get into food as a result of inappropriate or lack of hand washing and basic hygiene and this cycle continues. Once one case is diagnosed, it is thought to be an epidemic already as one can be a carrier of the virus for a long time before symptoms actually show. The initial symptoms include fever, tiredness, headache and limb/neck stiffness.
Not everyone infected with the virus actually develops paralytic disease. There are some pre-disposing factors to the development of paralytic disease and they include intramuscular injections (like the baby in the story above), injuries, strenuous exercise, pregnancy, immune deficiency and removal of tonsils. Does this mean we should trash our exercise routine (you wish :D) or not get pregnant (let’s watch you convince your spouse :D)? The point being made is that these groups of people are prone to this and should ensure that they practice proper hygiene and sanitation to prevent this, given its mode of transmission.
All children below the age of 5 years should be immunized and booster doses given whenever the Government sends out her officials to do so. It’s not cool to send them away as if they were some troublesome ‘pests’ disturbing your peace. Their jobs save lives. If enough children are immunized, the cycle of infection can be broken and our children will live healthier, longer and better lives. Remember, there is no cure for polio…only treatment to deal with the symptoms.
Have a good night y’all 😀