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About Post-Polio Syndrome

For most people today, polio means nothing more than a vaccine children receive when they are very young. Those born after the 1950s don't remember the terrible epidemics that scourged the southeastern and northeastern United States during the '40s and '50s, disabling and killing thousands of individuals. It was not until 1955 that a vaccine was discovered which successfully stopped the dreaded disease. By 1960, the incidence of polio had dropped by 92 percent and today, no more than 12 cases a year are reported.

However, the legacy of polio lives on. In the mid-1970s, adults who had polio as children started reporting new, unexplained symptoms:

  • unaccustomed fatigue
  • joint and muscle pain
  • muscle weakness and loss of muscle use
  • respiratory problems

In 1984, physicians officially recognized these symptoms as Post-Polio Syndrome, late effects of the disease which can surface 20 to 40 years after the initial infection and return polio survivors to wheelchairs and hospital beds. There are now more than 650,000 polio survivors experiencing Post-Polio Syndrome in the United States.