Doctors and the general community have been urged to learn about the late effects of polio, which can severely affect people 15 or more years after contracting the polio virus.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health Catherine King said older Australians who had contact with the poliomyelitis virus in the 1950s or earlier are at risk of developing the Late Effects of Polio (LEOP), even if they had no symptoms at the time.
Many younger people who migrated from countries where polio was endemic are also at risk.
Ms King today launched the first module of a new online resource on the LEOP developed by Polio Australia.
“Doctors and researchers still have much to learn about LEOP, a broad diagnostic term for symptoms including muscle weakness, pain, fatigue and breathing difficulties”, Ms King said.
“This new information source for health professionals and the community will be very valuable in raising awareness of the lingering effect of polio on Australians”.
Ms King said it was now clear that LEOP could affect people who have not been paralysed by polio, which greatly increases the number of potential LEOP sufferers.
“It is important for GPs and other doctors and therapists to know about LEOP and its more severe form, Post Polio Syndrome, so that they can make the correct diagnosis and provide the right treatment”, Ms King said.
“This is particularly the case as some polio survivors may be unaware themselves that they contracted polio, because they were very young at the time or had very mild symptoms, and were never diagnosed”.
Ms King said while Australia has not had a case of “wild polio” for 40 years, there is no room for complacency and immunisation is important for all children.
Polio vaccine is listed on the National Immunisation Program Schedule and is provided free by the Australian Government for children at two, four and six months and four years of age.