“Homeopathy … cures a larger percentage of cases than any other method … and is beyond all doubt safer, more economical and the most complete medical science”. Mahatma Gandhi
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a highly infectious, disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. ‘Poliomyelitis’ is derived from two Greek words polios which means ‘grey’ and myelos which means ‘marrow’ and a suffix itis which indicates ‘inflammation’. Poliomyelitis may be defined as the inflammation of the grey matter of the spinal cord. Though normally limited to the spinal cord, severe cases of poliomyelitis may extend to the brain leading to polioencephalitis with its symptoms especially the difficulty or inability to breathe.
It affects only humans and could be transmitted from a patient or a symptom-free carrier often through the fecal-oral route. It is said to enter the body through the mouth when a person comes in contact through handling of toys, items, eating foods/fruits or drinking water contaminated with feces. Seldom is it spread through mouth to mouth contact. Historians have proved that the disease has been in existence since ancient times. Tomb paintings in Egypt from 1403 to 1365 BC depict children with deformed limbs walking with sticks. The first clinical description of polio in contemporary times was given in 1789 by Michael Underwood who described it as “debility of the lower extremities”. Due to the contributions of Jakob Heine and Karl Oskar Medin in 1840, polio was also known as Heine-Medin disease. Adults and children are affected by polio. The disease was later called infantile paralysis, based on its propensity to affect children.
The incubation period which is the time between the first exposure to/infection by the virus and the first symptoms varies. Incubation period could range from 3 days to 35 days but usually 6 to 20 days. In temperate regions, the highest transmission happens during the summer and autumn. In tropical regions like Nigeria it can be transmitted any time of the year. When someone contracts polio he/she does not continuously infect others. The length of time when an infected person can spread the disease also varies. The carrier of polio virus can infect others between 7 and 10 days before and about two weeks after the appearance of symptoms.
The first clinical diagnosis of polio was in 1840. In 1891, the 1887 Swedish polio epidemic was described. Some infected persons may not manifest the symptoms yet they can spread the disease for as long as six weeks after infection. It is also thought that spread happens as long as the virus is in the saliva and feces and this may be for several weeks after first infection. Medical laboratories can diagnose the disease by detecting the poliovirus in stool specimens.
In a region where this disease is not common and the people have low or no immunity, a polio infection spreads very fast. Absence of sanitation facilities and poor public and personal hygiene are known to contribute to the spread.
When polio affects a people not all of them are paralysed. In fact 70% of the infected people do not show any symptom of polio and these have active immune systems. Some people (about 25%) show mild symptoms of slight fever and sore throat; few others show severe symptoms like stiff neck, headache, numbness with prickling sensation. These symptoms do not last. The affected people normally recover after a week or two. However about 0.1% of infected people in a population are known to develop the most severe symptoms of permanent paralysis and in a few others may lead to death.
Treatment: In the conventional medical system, there is no cure for paralytic polio and no specific treatment. But during the summer epidemics of 1949 to 1951, Dr Fred R. Klenner, an American, successfully treated more than 200 polio patients with large doses of intravenous Vitamin C. Due to the rampant and prevalent use of the pesticide, DDT, then, he hypothesized that polio in patients was due to DDT poisoning. So he prescribed ascorbic acid as a detoxification agent which proved very successful. This was long before Dr Linus Pauling’s research and Nobel Prize on vitamin C. However the governing authorities did not look in to this remedy.
In an account by McKay (2008) who, fifty years earlier, had attended a Catholic boarding school in south Minneapolis when forty six of the students were infected with poliomyelitis. A Reverend Sister Elizabeth Kenny who employed an unusual method for treating poliomyelitis was invited to teach them her method. “Sister Kenny’s treatment involved moving the affected muscles at all times, at all cost. The pain was excruciating. Three sisters would hold me down and one would move my head. My paralysis was in my neck muscles. No matter how much I screamed or cried out, they continued the treatment. Within three months I was able to move my neck on my own and within a year, no one would suspect I had any problem, except for the constant pain in one of the muscles in the right side of my neck, which would become worse whenever I was under stress or got chilled” (McKay, 2008). This was an application of rigorous physiotherapy. Eventually she got rid of recurring pain with constitutional homeopathic treatment.
Prevention: There are two broad types of polio vaccine; an injected vaccine using inactivated poliovirus and an oral vaccine containing attenuated (weakened) live virus. Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age. Only IPV has been used in the United States since 2000. Oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) is still used throughout much of the world. Polio vaccine protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the poliovirus. Almost all children (more than 99 percent) who get all the recommended doses of the inactivated polio vaccine will be protected from polio. It is also very important to practice good hand hygiene which requires one to wash hands often with soap and water. Note that alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill poliovirus. It has been observed that among those who receive oral polio vaccine (OPV), only 95% develop immunity. However the population in whom the vaccine fails is protected by the immunity of those around: herd immunity. In Europe, poliovirus vaccination is mandatory in ten countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia but recommended in all the others.
Poor sanitation exposes people to infection by the polio virus thereby enhancing their natural immunity within the population. With better public and personal hygiene via community sanitation, better sewage disposal, clean water supplies, it is expected that since fecal-oral transmission is averted, such populations should not be at risk. However it is not so.
The role of public hygiene in the eradication of poliomyelitis: Infection with poliovirus was practically global until the advent of vaccination. Following the error of using the pesticide DDT there occurred a ten-fold increase in incidence of polio in the US from 1945. In 1951-1952, polio cases were at an all-time high in the US. However, there soon followed a dramatic decline in incidence of polio in the next three years well before the approval of the polio vaccine of Jonas Salk et al. First there was a decline in the use of DDT and an improvement in personal and public hygiene.
Polio has now been eliminated from most of the world with the aid of vaccination. Last reported case of wild polio virus in Nigeria was in 2016. On August 25, 2020 after three consecutive years since the last case of wild polio was identified, Africa was officially certified polio-free (zero cases of wild poliovirus). Nigeria was delisted from the list of three nations with endemic polio the other nations were Pakistan and Afghanistan. However occasional outbreaks are still seen within these and surrounding nations. Between 2016 and 2020 worldwide cases of wild polio (mostly in these countries) remained below 200 per year, with only 6 confirmed cases in 2021 (JICA, 2022).
About 25 to 30 years after recovery from attack of acute poliomyelitis one-fourth of previously infected patients develop pain, fatigue and weakness in the muscles earlier affected by polio. This is known as post polio syndrome (PPS).
No country was able to control or interrupt polio transmission solely by sanitation, clean water supply, personal hygiene, or very high living standards. Although the popular teaching is that transmission was primarily through contaminated water and food (fecal-oral) there is strong evidence to show that direct person-to-person transmission during normal social contact may be an important factor during outbreaks. Polio is highly contagious and may be transmissible via the respiratory route by inhalation of droplets or aerosols containing virus expelled through saliva or nasal secretions.
Homeopathic interventions: Recently the World Health Organization called for “innovative” approaches for treating communicable diseases. In the Journal of American Institute of Homeopathy, Dewey, (1921) said, “Homeopathy has been very effective in treating many of the epidemics during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Why the successes are not better known is a subject for conjecture”.
Jonas Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine officially came in to use on 12 April, 1955. In the 1800s Dr Grimmer of Chicago treated 5,000 young children with a homeopathic remedy whose indications consisted of “paralytic affections of the legs, spastic paralysis, infantile paralysis, serious weakness and heaviness” and “slow recovery of nerve power” to protect them from poliomyelitis. Not one of them developed polio. (Hahnemann International Institute for Homeopathic Documentation, 1996).
In 1850, there was an epidemic of poliomyelitis in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dr A. Taylor-Smith (a supporter of the viral theory) treated 82 persons with a homeopathic remedy to protect them. Although 12 of them got in direct contact with the disease, none of them was infected (British Homeopathic Journal, 1950:40(2):65-77).
In 1950, a polio outbreak in the US was met by the closing of public facilities, “social distancing” and the use of menacing chemicals such as DDT, all of which failed to eradicate the presumed virus. In 1953 several physicians in the US desperately turned to homeopathy, using homeoprophylaxis (the use of homeopathy prior to exposure to the disease).
During the polio epidemics in the US, a homeopath, Dr Alonzo Shadman practicing in Boston area treated many cases of children manifesting initial symptoms of poliomyelitis. This was in the mid-1950s. Hence cases that would have turned in to full blown poliomyelitis disease were aborted.
Dr H.W. Eisfelder carried out a study between 1956-1958 during which period he immunized over 6,000 children with a homeopathic remedy against poliomyelitis. No cases of polio were reported. No side effects were observed (Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, 1961, 54:166-167).
Dr Francisco Eizayaga of Argentina reported about the occurrence of a grievous epidemic of poliomyelitis in 1957 in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. In the previous epidemic a different homeopathic remedy was indicated by the symptoms and prescribed. In the 1957 outbreak, the symptoms being different required another homeopathic remedy different from the previously indicated one. The larger part of homeopathic doctors prescribed this homeopathic remedy as a preventive. Drug stores distributed thousands of doses of this remedy to the public. The result was that not one of the recipients of the remedy was infected.
In 1975 there was another severe outbreak of poliomyelitis in Buenos Aires. 40,000 persons were given a known homeopathic remedy for prevention. Not one of the recipients developed poliomyelitis.
A clinical cohort study was carried to compare the relative safety of homeopathic immunization with conventional vaccination by Isaac Golden from 2001 to 2004. Parents of 781 children were surveyed. Some of the children received conventional vaccinations, others received homeopathic immunization. The result showed that children who received standard vaccinations were 15 times more likely to develop asthma, 7 times more likely to be afflicted with eczema and 2 times more likely to suffer from allergies than those who used homeopathic immunization.
Contaminations in polio vaccine are known to have led to different disorders in humans including cancer cases. In Science, April 4, 1977, Jonas Salk said: “The live polio virus vaccine [the Sabin vaccine] has been the predominant cause of domestically arising cases of paralytic poliomyelitis in the United States since 1972. To avoid the occurrence of such cases, it would be necessary to discontinue the routine use of live polio vaccine.”
In concluding, scientific data has shown that polio-free countries remain under persistent threat of resurgence from vaccine-acquired poliovirus emanating from communities where OPV is used. If Homeopathy is integrated in to the Nigeria Health system, such resurgence will be averted.