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For Release:
February 24, 2006

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner

Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. asks doctors to be vigilant for Post-Polio Sequelae symptoms


As many as 50,000 survivors of polio in New Jersey who are experiencing severe fatigue, muscle pain and weakness may be at risk of having Post-Polio Sequelae (PPS).

State Health Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. asked 30,000 physicians in a letter this week to be alert for possible cases. These patients may need to be referred for rehabilitation or to specialists, preferably those with experience treating PPS.

Some 1.63 million Americans had polio during the epidemics of the 1940's, 50's and early 60's. By the early 1980s, many polio survivors began to experience new, unexpected and disabling symptoms, including severe fatigue, muscle weakness and pain, problems with sleeping, swallowing and breathing, increased sensitivity to anesthesia and pain, and a decline in the ability to carry out daily activities including working and walking.

PPS usually develops 15 or more years after polio infection. It appears to be caused by a gradual loss of nerve cells damaged by the poliovirus after decades of overuse. 

After a diagnosis of Post-Polio Sequelae, symptoms can be treated through “conserving” polio survivors’ remaining, overworked poliovirus damaged neurons through frequent rest breaks, pacing activities, use of assistive devices such as crutches, braces, and wheelchairs, treating sleep disorders, stress management, and appropriate diet.

“Most people infected with the poliovirus have no symptoms, but some infections cause paralysis and even death,’’ Dr. Jacobs’ letter stated. 

New Jersey has not had a new case of polio in more than two decades. But, young children must be immunized as early as possible against polio.

“It is critical to maintain high levels of immunization coverage in order to provide maximum protection to the community. Vaccination will ensure that herd immunity will provide protection from disease when a case is introduced into the country from areas of the world where polio still exists today,’’ the commissioner’s letter stated.

The development of the polio vaccine in 1955 eliminated polio in the U.S. However, five cases of polio occurred in unvaccinated Minnesota children in October 2005, demonstrating how easily the poliovirus can be imported into the U.S.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has helped cut the global toll of polio paralysis from an estimated 350,000 cases to fewer than 500 cases in 2001.It is endemic to India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt. In 2004, some 1,267 people were infected in the world—with 792 of those cases in Nigeria. 

 “The U.S. Public Health Service estimates that PPS affects at least 25 percent of “non-paralytic” and about 50 percent of paralytic polio survivors,” said Dr. Richard Bruno, director of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center’s Post-Polio Institute and its International Centre for Post-Polio Education and Research.

“Many polio survivors and most physicians don’t know PPS exists. Unfortunately, many American parents think that polio was “cured” by the vaccine and that the poliovirus is gone,” said Dr. Bruno, who is also chairperson of the International Post-Polio Task Force. 

The importance of treating PPS and the need for polio vaccination have been recognized by the U.S. Senate, which passed a resolution declaring 2006 a national "Year of Polio Education."  The state has also proclaimed 2006 "The Year of Polio Education" in New Jersey.

To learn more Post-Polio Sequelae and polio vaccination health care professionals, patients and their family and friends may want to visit the Department of Health and Senior Services website at or Polio Network of New Jersey.

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