Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health

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Additional support for treatment of polio survivors

Monday, 10 July 2017

The Turnbull Government is providing funding of $450,000 to Polio Australia to run clinical practice workshops for health professionals to improve their awareness of post-polio syndrome.

Federal Health Minister and Member for Flinders Greg Hunt said a greater professional understanding of the symptoms associated with the late effects of polio would lead to improvements in the quality of life experienced by Australians with the condition.

“We are fortunate today in Australia that many young people have had limited or no first-hand experience with polio and its crippling effects, thanks to vaccination programs that have largely eradicated the virus from our shores,” Minister Hunt said.

“But the earlier epidemics in the late 1930s, early 1940s and 1950s affected up to four million Australians to varying degrees, with up to 40,000 people infected with the severe paralytic polio virus and many more infected with the non-severe paralytic polio who are still living with the condition today.

“This funding will particularly benefit polio survivors who experience late effects of the illness, which can occur up to 40 years after their initial infection.”

These symptoms of fatigue, muscle weakness, joint pain, and sleeping, breathing or swallowing difficulties are often confused with other medical conditions, meaning some patients may not receive the right treatment and support.

Minister Hunt said Polio Australia’s clinical practice workshops would provide up to 1,200 primary and allied health professionals with an opportunity to learn more about the effects of this illness, particularly if it recurs later in a patient’s life.

“The workshops will be held in various locations around Australia and will be open to GPs, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and orthotists,” he said.

“The information shared through these sessions will allow these health professionals to properly diagnose the condition and better manage the symptoms, allowing polio survivors to maintain their independence for as long as possible.”

Mornington Peninsula Post-Polio Support Group Secretary Fran Henke said these workshops would allow health professionals to gain the necessary advice and information needed to properly diagnose patients.

“The biggest battle for polio survivors is not having access to health professionals who understand polio,” Mrs Henke said.

“This program will help to educate GPs so they are better able to treat post-polio syndrome, which is incredibly important.

“Misdiagnosis is frustrating and insulting to people. We know when something is wrong but it is really hard to communicate that to health professionals and to get them to understand some of the issues associated with the condition.

Mrs Henke said this was an important step forward for polio survivors.

“It is essential that all medical professionals are educated so that people with post-polio syndrome can receive the appropriate care, treatment and support they need,” she said.

“We are extremely grateful to the Federal Government for this support and hope it will lead to further advances and assistance for people with post-polio syndrome.”

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