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[poh-lee-oh-mahy-uh-lahy-tis] /ˌpoʊ li oʊˌmaɪ əˈlaɪ tɪs/
noun, Pathology.
an acute viral disease, usually affecting children and young adults, caused by any of three polioviruses, characterized by inflammation of the motor neurons of the brain stem and spinal cord, and resulting in a motor paralysis, followed by muscular atrophy and often permanent deformities.
Also called acute anterior poliomyelitis, infantile paralysis, polio.
Origin of poliomyelitis
1875-80; < New Latin < Greek polió(s) gray + New Latin myelitis myelitis
Related forms
[poh-lee-oh-mahy-uh-lit-ik] /ˌpoʊ li oʊˌmaɪ əˈlɪt ɪk/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for poliomyelitis


an acute infectious viral disease, esp affecting children. In its paralytic form (acute anterior poliomyelitis) the brain and spinal cord are involved, causing weakness, paralysis, and wasting of muscle Often shortened to polio Also called infantile paralysis
Word Origin
C19: New Latin, from Greek polios grey + muelos marrow
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for poliomyelitis

1874, also polio-myelitis, coined by German physician Adolph Kussmaul (1822-1902) from Greek polios "grey" (see fallow (adj.)) + myelos "marrow" + -itis "inflammation." So called because the gray matter in the spinal cord is inflamed, which causes paralysis. The earlier name was infantile paralysis (1843).

In many respects, also, this affection resembles the acute spinal paralysis of infancy, which, from the researches of Charcot, Joffroy, and others, have been shown pathologically to be an acute myelitis of the anterior cornua. Hence, for these forms of paralysis, Professor Kussmaul suggests the name of 'poliomyelitis anterior.' ["London Medical Record," Dec. 9, 1874]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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poliomyelitis in Medicine

poliomyelitis po·li·o·my·e·li·tis (pō'lē-ō-mī'ə-lī'tĭs)
A highly infectious viral disease that chiefly affects children and, in its acute forms, causes inflammation of motor neurons of the spinal cord and brainstem, leading to paralysis, muscular atrophy, and often deformity. Also called infantile paralysis.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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poliomyelitis in Science
A highly communicable infectious disease caused by the poliovirus of the genus Enterovirus that causes inflammation of motor neurons of the spinal cord and brainstem, leading to paralysis, muscular atrophy, and often disability and deformity. Childhood vaccinations are given to prevent infection. Also called polio.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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poliomyelitis in Culture
poliomyelitis (polio) [(poh-lee-oh-meye-uh-leye-tis)]

An acute disease, and an infectious disease, caused by a virus, that brings about inflammation of certain nerve cells in the spinal cord. It can have a wide range of effects, from mild to severe, including paralysis, permanent disability, and death. In the United States, the disease has now largely vanished since the development of a vaccine against it. (See Sabin vaccine and Salk vaccine.)

Note: The history of polio, which went from a major public health problem to a minor one in a short time, is often used as an example of the benefits of medical research.
Note: President Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered from poliomyelitis. During his presidency, he could not walk unaided.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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