Polio: Expert advocates increased medical attention to counter effects of disease on survivors

An Abuja-based Neurologist, Dr Ahmed Ibrahim, says a large number of polio survivors are likely to experience Post Polio Syndrome (PPS).

He made the disclosure in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.

Polio, an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, is a contagious viral illness that causes nerve injury, leading to paralysis, difficulty
breathing and sometimes death.

The Neurologist, who deals with a branch of medicine that has to do with disorders of the nervous system, therefore, said PPS
is a condition that affects polio survivors years after recovery from an initial acute attack of the virus.

Ibrahim, who is also a polio survivor, says survivors often experience gradual weakening of muscles affected by the polio infection.

According to him, most polio survivors experience PPS due to inadequate medical attention or the lack of information about the syndrome, among others.

He said “up to 50 per cent of people living with polio would get PPS 20 to 40 years after the first attack.

“Polio could haunt its victims for decades, though some are now coping with PPS.”

He, therefore, advised survivors with PPS to monitor the output of their energy, saying “pace yourself;
when tired, stop the activity and rest. Resume after rest, Plan for the week, prioritise tasks and use equipment when
needed.”

The neurologist said it was important for persons affected by polio to constantly also check their mental health, especially if they were living with PPS.

He advised that such persons must always make out time to take care of their mental health, stressing that “give yourself time to deal with what
PPS can bring. Speak to a professional to learn different coping skills. PPS may be part of your life but it is not all of it.

“As a polio survivor, PPS is worse than the initial disease,” he stressed, noting that he had been living with pains, with serious joint and muscle issues.

Ibrahim, who described polio as “a huge public health tsunami”, urged government to redouble efforts toward curtailing the scourge.

According to him, October is a polio awareness month, and therefore, Federal Government should support a PPS programme to address the challenges
adults with the syndrome face as they age.

He recommended programmes that would offer peer support, educate, system navigation, advocacy, social and recreational outing.

He said that health workers in Nigeria should be committed in reaching every child with the polio vaccine, so that Nigeria could win the war against the disease.

Polio was once a disease feared across the globe, but with vaccines, it is currently endemic only in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

However, the international public health and development community predicts a polio-free world in the near future.