Following the development of the new Salk Polio vaccine in 1956, Elvis Presley was asked to be a figurehead for polio vaccination. By agreeing to get a jag in front of the press, he instantly spread awareness of the disease and its potentially deadly consequences. Now, 50 years later, we need another “Elvis moment” to confront Post Polio Syndrome (PPS).
There were just 74 cases worldwide in the last year but polio remains a problem. A lack of recognition and awareness is causing serious problems for people living with a condition that affects 120,000 people in the UK alone. With symptoms including fatigue, muscle pain, cold intolerance and breathing difficulties, PPS is always painful and often life-altering. Yet with just 55 per cent of doctors able to diagnose the condition, many patients are failing to receive the help that could significantly improve their lives.
PPS is a neurological condition which can occur in up to 80 per cent of those who have had polio and around 120,000 people in the UK are living with PPS today. After an interval of several years of stability, individuals can develop increasing weakness, fatigue and pain in muscles, a general reduction in stamina, breathing, sleeping and/or swallowing problems and cold intolerance. There is no specific cure for PPS, but properly managed it may stabilise and lessen the cost on the NHS. Much can be done to retain independence, including self-management strategies.
In the absence of an Elvis, The British Polio Fellowship has produced Post Polio Syndrome: A guide to management for health care professionals. Get a copy for free on our website or by calling us. If you fear you have PPS, take a look and contact your GP.
• Ted Hill MBE is chief executive of The British Polio Fellowship, www.britishpolio.org.uk