Poliomyelitis or polio is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. Australia was certified as a polio-free nation in the year 2000.
Whilst there is no accurate data for polio survivors living in Australia, estimates have been placed at 400,000.
The World Health Organisation estimates that there are 20 million polio survivors worldwide. The disease remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Whilst most Polio cases are asymptomatic, in a small number of cases the virus enters the central nervous system causing weakness, paralysis and reduced muscle tone. This is referred to as paralytic polio.
Recovery from acute-polio generally results in a return to relatively normal function. However, it is now recognised that, years after contracting the initial infection, increasing numbers of polio survivors are presenting with a range of new symptoms.
These symptoms occur 15 or more years after the acute infection, resulting in decreased mobility, need for additional assistive devices, increased difficulties in activities of daily living, and decreased quality of life.
Treatment is primarily focused on rehabilitation management strategies aimed at protecting muscles and joints from overuse while maintaining function and the ability to fully participate in life.
Polio Services Victoria at St Vincent’s
Polio Services Victoria was established at St Vincent’s in 1998 to provide ongoing support for people who have had polio.
It provides a state-wide assessment and referral service assisting polio survivors, community providers and other interested parties who are seeking advice or information after polio and its effects.
There is no cost involved for Victorian residents to attend the service and access is through self-referral or referral from the patient’s doctor or allied health professional.
Polio Services Victoria also runs six regional clinics across Victoria each year and the regional clinics for 2016 are: Shepparton, Bendigo, Horsham, Rosebud, Traralgon and Warrnambool.
Please visit the website of Polio Services Victoria for more information about its services and how to make a referral.