Melnick, Joseph L. Department of Virology and Epidemiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.
Last reviewed:September 2019
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- Infectious agent
- Prevention and control
- Postpolio syndrome
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
An acute infectious viral disease that, in its serious form, affects the central nervous system and, by destruction of motor neurons in the spinal cord, produces flaccid paralysis. Poliomyelitis (shortened to polio in common usage) is caused by the poliovirus (Fig. 1), which is an enterovirus (a transient inhabitant of the gastrointestinal tract) and a member of the virus family Picornaviridae. In the most serious polio cases (about 1% of cases), the poliovirus enters the central nervous system and results in permanent paralysis of the limbs (usually the legs). Of those infected, 5–10% die when the paralysis affects the respiratory muscles. However, about 99% of infections are either inapparent or very mild. See also: Central nervous system; Enterovirus; Infectious disease; Neuron; Virus
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