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Polio Awareness Week is a time to reflect – 8 to 14 August 2023!

Polio Awareness Week is a time to reflect on and raise awareness about this devastating disease and the importance of immunisation. However, it is more than that. It is a call to action – a time to do our part in helping eradicate polio, once and for all.

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly contagious viral disease that can cause paralysis and sometimes even death. It is most common in children under 5 years of age, but anyone can contract the disease. The virus is transmitted from person-to-person and is mainly spread through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food. Once spread, it multiplies in the intestine, takes control of the nervous system, and causes paralysis.

Polio symptoms usually last for 2–10 days, and recovery is complete in almost all cases. Polio symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Pain in the limbs
90% of the time, polio does not cause any symptoms. But in an unlucky 10% of cases, the virus can cause paralysis. Paralysis can happen as quickly as within a few hours of infection. In the most severe cases, it can lead to death. This is because the virus can also affect the muscles that control breathing, and if the breathing muscles become paralysed, the child will suffocate and die.

Polio is a preventable disease. There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented through vaccination. South Africa provides routine vaccination for poliovirus. The current vaccination schedule in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI-SA) consists of two doses of bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) at birth and 6 weeks of age, followed by the trivalent inactivated polio vaccine (tlPV) included in the hexavalent vaccine at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age, and finally, a booster dose of tlPV is given at 18 months of age. The polio vaccine is safe and effective, and can protect a person for life.

Treatments for polio focus on limiting and alleviating symptoms. Heat and physical therapy can be used to stimulate the muscles, while antispasmodic drugs are used to relax the affected muscles. Although this can improve mobility, it cannot reverse permanent polio paralysis.

In the next 10 years, there could be as many as 10 000 new cases of polio worldwide if the last remaining areas where it still exists are not eradicated.
This is why it is critical to ensure that polio is eradicated completely. By raising awareness about polio, we can ensure that everyone gets access to the vaccine and that the illness is eventually eradicated. The prevention of polio outbreaks, the protection of children, and the support of polio eradication all depend on raising knowledge of the disease.

Eradicating polio is a goal that is within reach, but it will only be possible if we all work together.


Mzukona Mantshontsho is the founder of Nyakaza Media Solutions. Nyakaza Media Solutions is an organisation that was established to help community organisations, business entities, and schools to research, write, document, report, analyse, edit, publish newsletters or bulletins in hard-copy, on-line and maintain websites with the relevant content as per the editorial policy of that organisation, school or entity. Nyakaza Media Solutions has a vision to promote and bring dialogue to communities, businesses and schools about issues that affect them. Nyakaza Media Solutions is on a mission to develop and encourage communities, businesses and learners to celebrate the good, applaud excellence, welcome growth, strive to be better individuals, businesses and communities, want more knowledge, discourage bad and counter-productive behaviour as well as communities, businesses and learners that want to be great SOUTH AFRICANS. Nyakaza Media Solutions is making use of Yo School Magazine as a platform that learners in all schools to make use of to write their stories.

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