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HEALTH REPORT – August 28, 2002: Post-Polio Condition - 2002-08-23

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

In nineteen-eighty-eight, a major campaign to end the disease polio was launched. A virus causes polio. It can infect people at any age, but it especially affects children under age three. The virus enters through the mouth and then grows inside the throat and intestines.

Once the poliovirus becomes established in the intestines, it can spread to the blood and nervous system. As a result, victims of polio often lose the ability to move. This paralysis is almost always permanent. In very serious cases, the paralysis can lead to death because victims are not able to breathe.

There is no cure for polio, so the best treatment is prevention. A few drops of a powerful vaccine medicine will protect a child for life. The vaccine must be given over several years to be fully effective.

Health experts want the world to know that many years later, polio victims may suffer from a condition called post-polio sequelae, or P-P-S. This condition affects polio survivors about thirty-five years after their first polio attack.

There are about two-million polio survivors in North America and twenty-million around the world. About seventy-five percent of paralyzed polio survivors and forty percent of non-paralyzed survivors suffer from P-P-S. Signs of the condition include muscle weakness, pain in the head, neck and back, tiredness, and trouble sleeping, breathing and swallowing.

Richard Bruno is an expert on Post-Polio Sequelae. He says the condition is caused when nerves damaged earlier by the poliovirus become tired and overworked. There is no cure. However, rest and less physical activity can help treat the condition. He says polio survivors must stop over-using their bodies. They should walk less and use devices to help them walk. They also should have rest periods throughout the day. And they should eat small meals throughout the day that are high in protein and low in fat.

Doctor Bruno heads the Post Polio Institute in the United States. This organization has started a letter campaign to educate every doctor and polio survivor in the world about Post-Polio Sequelae. More information about this health condition can be found on the Internet computer system. The address is www-dot-postpolioinfo-dot-com.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jill Moss.