Please click here for more information about 2011 Polio Awareness Month
World Polio Day aims to increase awareness about polio virus and to encourage further actions to reduce it from spreading. The commemoration of the day also highlights the success of global strategies in reducing the spread of the disease.
However, it is also a time for us to reflect on those people who contracted polio during the epidemics and are now living with the late effects of polio. For many tens of thousands of Australians, polio’s reprise is a cruel twist of fate that impacts on all aspects of their daily lives. Currently, there is no Federal Government funding for polio survivors.
Polio Australia would like to mark World Polio Day as significant for those people who were not able to avoid polio. So why not “Wear Orange on World Polio Day” and show your true colours! Tell your family and friends to wear something Orange (t-shirt, scarf, socks, flower, anything!), take a photo and help us commemorate the polio ‘survivor’ by uploading your own Orange photos here.
Please click here for our 2010 Polio World Day Media Release.
You can also make your donation to Polio Australia here.
What do you know about poliomyelitis? If you think it’s ‘gone’, then think again!
What do you know about life after polio? If you think everyone who had polio during Australia’s epidemics is ‘gone’, the fact is We’re Still Here!
Polio (poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis) is now a disease that has been virtually forgotten by the Australian community and health professionals. Although ongoing vaccination programs introduced in the late 1950s have been successful in eradicating polio in Australia, infections were still being reported well into the 1960s. As recently as 2007, Australia experienced a case of this debilitating disease when a 22 year old Melbourne-based student returned from a holiday in Pakistan. Polio is really just a plane ride away!
In 2009 the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 1604 cases of paralytic polio in more than twenty countries. The fact that paralytic polio represents only 1% of all polio infections means the remaining 99% of those who only experience flu-like symptoms, or may even be asymptomatic, continue to spread the virus. There are four polio endemic countries – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – but outbreaks continue to occur in neighbouring countries. Tajikistan, which had been polio-free since 1996, was reinfected with poliovirus from northern India in 2010. By mid June more than 200 children were paralysed and WHO reported a total number of 458 cases by the end of July. WHOs Polio Eradication website states “The Tajikistan experience reaffirms the imperative of completing polio eradication: until polio is eradicated, any country is at risk of an importation, and high population immunity is the only protection against a large outbreak.”
However, polio prevention and eradication is only one part of this story. Did you know that polio survivors today form the largest single disability group in the country? Yes, We’re Still Here! More than 40,000 Australians contracted paralytic polio between the 1930s and 1960s and as they head into their senior years, the development of new symptoms can occur, commonly known as the “Late Effects of Polio”. These symptoms are not infectious but can be physically debilitating, causing increased muscle weakness, pain and fatigue, to name a few. The late effects are even affecting a significant proportion of the 99% who had non-paralytic polio, swelling the number of sufferers considerably. Unfortunately, society’s short memory of recent history has resulted in many polio survivors who experience the late effects finding it difficult to obtain correct information, diagnosis and treatment from health professionals – their symptoms often dismissed as simply ‘ageing’.
Effective self-management of this chronic condition to minimise or stabilise the late effects is of paramount importance to polio survivors. Without strategic intervention, the Late Effects of Polio will become an increasing issue for communities around Australia as the population ages, and as the community diversifies through immigration. The large number of survivors who are now experiencing new symptoms has transformed the problem from an individual predicament to a social concern, and specific services will be required for at least the next 40-50 years.
Gillian Thomas, President of Polio Australia, and a survivor herself says, “The onset of the late effects is a cruel blow to polio survivors who fought hard to overcome their original disability. As we now increasingly lose mobility, function and independence, knowledgeable health care professionals who understand our unique issues are key to maintaining our quality of life and our ability to continue as valued, contributing members of society.” She adds, “This is why Polio Australia’s strategies for nationally consistent information and education programs are so essential.”
The need for Polio Australia’s intervention has been made clear to our politicians and the Federal Member for Ballarat, Catherine King, moved a motion on 17th August 2009 “That the House recognises that: the needs of polio survivors have been largely neglected since vaccination against the disease became a reality, and as they age with chronic disabilities this neglect must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
October is Polio Awareness Month and to achieve this long overdue level of support for polio survivors, Polio Australia is seeking commitment for a combination of federal, corporate and philanthropic funding to progress strategies to ensure polio survivors get the services they so desperately need to maintain their quality of life.
Greetings from Post-Polio Health International (PHI) in St. Louis
October 10-16, 2010 is PHI-organized WE’RE STILL HERE! week. Individual Members and post-polio groups around the world are asked to create activities of awareness regarding the late effects of polio during this time. Thanks to those of you who have made plans.
Each year PHI suggests a focus and this year, we, along with Rotary International and Polio Survivors and Associates, encouraged visits to your local Rotary meeting to thank them for their eradication efforts, to remind them of the contributions of people with disabilities and to remind them of the needs of younger polio survivors in the developing world and of aging survivors worldwide. Check out the materials provided for your use. (read more)
Joan L. Headley, Executive Director