New Zealand hasn’t had a case of live and wild polio infection since 1962, so people would be forgiven for thinking that was the end of it, we beat that one. Indeed, thankfully the world is on the brink of eliminating the wild polio virus, with only 14 cases globally reported this year. But the late effects of polio continue to affect thousands of New Zealanders, most of whom are now in their sixties or older.
The “Late Effects of Polio” or “Post-Polio Syndrome” affects most polio survivors. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness and muscle and joint pain, shortening of tendons in polio-affected limbs, difficulty sleeping, difficulty breathing, and psychological stress. These symptoms can be debilitating and may compromise health and independence. A recent systematic review of the incidence and prevalence of Polio worldwide suggests that there may be close to 10,000 polio survivors alive in New Zealand today, including a significant number who caught it overseas more recently than their New Zealand-born counterparts.