The end of 2012 was supposed to be a moment when the world could celebrate having eradicated the polio virus. Unfortunately three countries remain where the transmission of polio has never been interrupted. These are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria with cases in Nigeria reaching a three year high with more than 100 cases in 2012.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Rotary International, are pouring significant money and effort into the global campaign to end polio. Unfortunately there are barriers to vaccination in Nigeria. A misconception is that the jabs are a family planning method that will ultimately stop the children from giving birth when they want to. Even small drops in vaccination levels among children can lead to large outbreaks. People have also stated that they would prefer to focus on ‘more important diseases’ such as Malaria.
The polio is normally similar to the flu, however in about 1% of cases, it can cross the blood/brain barrier. When this happens the virus can invade the nervous system, and cause paralysis in hours. Survivors often have wasted limbs and severe weakness which can have long term affects on mobility, function and independence. That is why eradication is so important.
Polio was made a notifiable disease in all States and Territories of Australia in 1922. Major polio epidemics occurred during the late 1930s, early 1940s and the 1950s. It is estimated that a minimum of 20,000–40,000 individuals developed paralytic polio in Australia between 1930 and 1988, which means that up to 2 to 4 million people were originally infected with the virus. The actual number of people infected by the virus is unknown.
Polio has now almost certainly been eradicated from Australia. The most recent case of polio, caused by wild poliovirus, was in 1978. Vaccination programs beginning in the late 1950s have prevented new infections in Australia. For this reason it can be difficult to find Specialists who deal with patients with Polio as they have long retired. Living with the late effects of polio (or Post Polio Syndrome) requires specialist attention.
Symptoms can include the following:
- unaccustomed fatigue unrelated to activity
- decreased strength and endurance
- pain in muscles and/or joints
- an inability to stay alert
- new muscle weakness and atrophy
- muscle and joint pain
- muscle spasms/twitching
- respiratory and sleep problems
- swallowing or speaking difficulties
- cold and/or heat intolerance
If you have a history of polio and have noticed any of the above symptoms which are affecting you mobility, function or independence call Advance Rehab Centre for a free 10 minute consultation with our physiotherapy team. We run the only Polio clinic in NSW staffed by a team of orthotists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists.