Over 7,000 people are thought to be living in Ireland with the late effects of polio, however many healthcare professionals are unaware of the specialised care these patients require, the Post Polio Support Group (PPSG) has said.
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It mainly affects children and young adults and is spread through person-to-person contact or faecal-oral contact.
Initial symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and fatigue. In a small number of cases, it can cause paralysis.
Polio was very common in Ireland in the 1950s, but the disease has been eradicated here and throughout most of the world thanks to extensive vaccination programmes.
However, there are an estimated 7,000 polio survivors currently living in Ireland and the late effects of this disease and/or post-polio syndrome (PPS) can include muscle weakness, fatigue, intolerance of the cold, difficulty breathing and difficult swallowing.
"One of the key problems faced by polio survivors is the lack of specialist knowledge of their condition, particularly as polio has been eradicated in Ireland. Many GP's and frontline medical professionals would not be aware of the specialised treatment that might be required in medical situations," the PPSG told Irishhealth.com.
The support group provides a new ‘Medical Alert' card, which it recommends all survivors to carry. This will help to ensure that their needs are taken into account during medical emergencies or even routine procedures.
For example, particular care needs to be taken when prescribing analgesics (painkillers), muscle relaxants, sedatives or anaesthetics to polio survivors.
"Polio has gone, but the survivors are still here. Many of them are not experiencing post-polio syndrome, but it is better to get informed and involved before the condition becomes difficult to manage. The PPSG can provide the services that they need and understands the issues ahead," the support group said.
It is hoping to raise awareness of the services it offers among those who may not be aware of them. Currently, it has a membership of around 1,000, which is far below the 7,000 people estimated to be living with the late effects of polio.
The group has recently launched a new website containing updated information. For more, click here
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