CDC / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CDC / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Polio affected brainstem. Light micrograph of a section through the pons (part of the brainstem) of a patient with poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis. Poliomyelitis is caused by the polio virus. This case was caused by the type III (Leon) strain of the virus. In severe cases of the disease the virus infects the central nervous system (CNS) causing inflammation of nervous tissue and cell death, seen here as white gaps in the tissue. The brainstem controls involuntary actions, such as breathing and heart contraction, therefore death of the neurons (nerve cells) can lead to paralysis or even death. Vaccination, which started in the 1950s, has been successful in controlling the disease. It has now been eliminated from Europe.
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