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  • Writer's pictureThe British Polio Fellowship

Tuesday 24 October: World Polio Day


It's World Polio Day, when people across the world are asked to focus on ending polio, a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.


On this day, hear from a British Polio Fellowship member who contracted polio and see how it affected her life and how she has had to live (and continues to live), with its devastating, long-lasting effects.


"In the 1940s & 1950s, all across the globe, there was a dreaded polio epidemic. It was feared by parents, affecting thousands and thousands of teenagers, children and babies. It appeared to be more prevalent in the young during summer months.


"Its simple symptoms of a chill, cold, shivering could develop into a paralysis where the child may need to be placed onto a ventilator to keep the child alive. Not every child needed to be ventilated., but thousands were paralysed.


"I, for one, was spared that experience but the polio virus effected my lower body, hence I didn’t walk until I was 3 and then with heavy clumsy looking irons bars to support me. Children were isolated from parents & siblings, often not returning home from hospitals for months or even years. For me, I was separated from my family for 6 years. The polio virus weakened my spine, so at the age of 15 years I was hospitalised again for spinal surgery.


"Then, thankfully, came the vaccine that reduced the severity of the polio fear. Parents were thankful their children wouldn’t be placed on ventilators, be paralysed or semi paralysed for the rest of their lives.


"But the polio virus had a sting in its tail. It left the majority of its victims with a condition called Post Polio, that many years later, effects weakened muscles resulting in further weakness & fatigue and is known as PPS (Post Polio Syndrome)


"So folk who had made a good recovery and lived reasonably normal, healthy lives, found as they aged, due to post-polio symptoms, muscle weakness, breathing problems and fatigue began affecting them.


"For many, life in a wheelchair became a reality.!!


"Let’s be thankful that due entirely to the success of the polio vaccine, no child will live through the horrors of Polio every again. So long as the vaccine programme covers every child born into the world, we should remain polio free.


"In 1939 a charity was established called “The British Polio Fellowship” (BPF) and 84 years later it’s still going strong! It was established to provide support, advice and charitable assistance to those struggling with post-polio. In addition, BPF Provides friendship and companionship to many who may be isolated due their disability.


"So, October 24th is a day to reflect and be thankful we survived Polio when 1000s around the world sadly didn’t and commit to ensuring that we keep it at bay by having our children vaccinated.


"The BPF website is www.britishpoliofellowship.org.uk" wrote Anne Race from Hampshire.

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