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Post Polio Awareness Network of Tasmania

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

National Polio Awareness Month

The total elimination of Polio is within our grasp. There are now very few countries where this disease still runs rampant but you can help to wipe it out forever by signing the attached petition which calls on governments around the world to help fund the vaccination program. The petition can be found at www.theendofpolio.com.

Many thousands of Tasmanians including members of my own family have fallen victim to the epidemics of the twentieth century. Alarmingly the vast majority of sufferers went undetected for reasons such as isolation, misdiagnosis and social stigma as Polio was widely regarded as a disease that only afflicted people from lower socio economic backgrounds.

Most of us would be well aware of the debilitating effects of Polio but few of us realise that once a sufferer has recovered the disease simply lies in waiting, only to resurface in their later years.  This condition is known as “Late Effects of Polio” or LEOP.

In October last year I addressed the Senate on the issue of global polio eradication as I believe it is within our grasp to stamp out this crippling disease worldwide. This speech was made in the lead up to CHOGM and together with a number of other Senators I called upon the Australian Government to do its bit to fund polio eradication across the world. Later in the month Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced funding to the tune of 50 million dollars over a four year period toward the vaccination program.

Australia was a big contributor in wiping polio from the Pacific Region but one case of polio anywhere is a threat everywhere. I also wanted to raise awareness of LEOP as the condition is largely misunderstood by the community.

The quest for total Polio eradication was given a boost recently when the World Health Organisation officially declared it as an “Emergency for Global Public Health”. What this means is that even though Polio has been almost totally eliminated some people are still at risk. If left unchecked we could expect to see around 200,000 cases a year posing a serious threat to global public health. It is imperative that we continue our fight against Polio, especially now that we are this close to wiping out this cruel disease forever.

Sadly, a lack of funds has seen a winding back of the vaccination program which will put vulnerable communities at risk of contracting the disease.  I urge you to sign the petition to request funding for the critical work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

While Polio is history in Tasmania, LEOP continues to affect a number of people. There are support groups for sufferers at several different locations around the state that offer relevant information and support services. If you would like to get in touch with a branch near you, go to www.hotkey.net.au/~polio.tas

 

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