4.3.3 Treatment and prevention of polio
While the initial symptoms of acute polio such as muscle pain and fever can be relieved, there is no treatment that can cure the weakness and paralysis if AFP develops. Regular physical exercise can help paralysed children to resume some activity. Prevention of polio by vaccination is the best method to eradicate the disease. Three doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) are given during routine vaccinations for other communicable diseases, and/or during campaigns for polio eradication. A detailed description of the vaccination procedure is given in the Immunization Module.
An initial dose of OPV can also be given at birth or before 2 weeks of age.
Polio surveillance and reporting
You should immediately report a case of AFP to the District Health Office and take stool samples from the patient. The stool sample should be sent to Addis Ababa to identify the virus. Stool specimens must be collected within 14 days of paralysis onset in order to have the greatest chance of isolating the virus. Try to collect the first specimen at the time of the case investigation. If the patient is not able to produce a stool, leave a cup, cold box and frozen ice packs with the family so that they can collect it from the patient later.
To collect faeces from the child, ask him or her to defaecate onto clean paper. Use a spatula or very clean spoon to put the stool specimen in a clean container and label it and write the date. After collection, the specimens must be placed immediately in a refrigerator for shipment, or in a cold box between frozen ice packs at 4–8°C. The specimens must reach the laboratory in Addis Ababa within 72 hours of collection.
Gemechis is a two-year-old boy who has had weakness in his legs for the last two days. His mother has told you that he has mild fever and diarrhoea. What should you do?
The boy may have AFP due to poliovirus infection. You should collect a stool sample from Gemechis and immediately report to the District Health Office and have the sample sent to Addis Ababa for laboratory analysis. For further evaluation and treatment, refer the child to the nearest health centre.
As a Health Extension Practitioner, if you identify a case of AFP you must report it immediately. You will also routinely need to give the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to all eligible children in your community.