As redundant as it is, the information that the vaccine is the only way to protect against infantile paralysis must be repeated. And as the virus of the disease continues to circulate in several countries, it is also important to know how it can be transmitted and even who it can affect. Children are not the only ones affected by the serious sequelae of poliomyelitis.
Adults can also be infected, with a risk of developing the severe form of the disease. It is therefore very important to get vaccinated at any age. For the elderly, the vaccine is administered in the Specialized Immunobiological Reference Centers (Cree), of the Ministry of Health.
“Caused by the poliovirus, poliomyelitis is transmitted by direct contact between a healthy person and another infected person. Either by the fecal-oral route, or by the oral-oral route,” explains Célia Menezes Cruz Marques, doctor at the Bio-
Manguinhos, immunobiological production unit of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz).
According to the specialist, the first situation is the most frequent and can occur through objects, food and water contaminated with feces of patients or carriers of the virus. Oral-oral contamination occurs through droplets of secretions during conversation, coughing or sneezing.
The form of contagion shows to what extent the lack of basic sanitation, poor housing conditions and the precariousness of personal hygiene are factors favoring the transmission of the virus. And in a country where just over 53% of the population has access to sewage collection and 83% of Brazilians have a treated water supply, according to 2018 data from the National Water Information System. sanitation (SNIS), there is great potential for polio-causing microorganisms. to spread.
“Once the virus has entered the body, it can produce inflammation of the nerves and spinal cord, usually preventing movement of the lower limbs. The diaphragm, however, can also be affected, leading the infected person to respiratory failure and even death,” says Giovanna Sapienza, infectious disease specialist at the Meniá Prevention Center and Santa Isabel Hospital, both in São Paolo.
Keep an eye out for symptoms
Poliomyelitis can present in different clinical forms. In 90 to 95% of cases, the disease is asymptomatic. For the 5% of people infected, the signs are very similar to any viral infection, such as fever, headache, cough, runny nose, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. “There is also poliomyelitis which can progress to meningitis, which occurs in about 1% of infections. And, finally, the best known, the paralytic, which affects approximately 1 to 1.6% of infected people, and presents typical clinical characteristics, which make it possible to evoke the diagnosis of poliomyelitis, which is the sudden installation of a motor deficit, accompanied by fever. “, explains Celia.
There is no treatment for infantile paralysis. Only therapies against symptoms. This is why, again, vaccination is so important. “The vaccine works by inducing the individual to produce antibodies against the virus. Thus, when the child comes into contact with the microorganism, this infectious agent will penetrate orally. However, the antibodies, which are produced in the intestine, will prevent this virus from being absorbed, falling into the bloodstream and reaching the nervous system, ”explains Kleber Luz, infectious disease specialist at Onofre Lopes University Hospital, to the federal hospital. University of Rio Grande do Norte (Huol/UFRN), which is part of the Ebserh network (Brazilian Society of Hospital Services).
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