ON THE GROUND: British Polio Fellowship's Polio for Life

Scheme: To make contact with as many as possible of the 7,000 polio survivors in Greater London and give them up-to-date information and advice about a condition known as late effects of polio, a second degenerative phase of the disease

Funding: A total of £72,000 raised to date from donors, trusts and commercial companies, including a £50,000 grant from Bridgehouse Estates. The project needs £102,000 to run for two and half years

Objectives: To enable polio survivors to continue to live more independently, to raise awareness of the late effects of polio and widen the information and support network for black and minority ethnic groups

A US researcher into polio once described the condition as "a thief in the night". "When it leaves, it takes part of you with it," said Dr Jacqueline Perry. For the tens of thousands of people across the UK who survived catching the muscle wasting disease, the prospect of the initial symptoms coming back could be terrifying. In the past 15 years, the medical community has recognised a condition known as late effects of polio with symptoms including breathlessness, muscle pain, weakness and fatigue.

But Jane Nation, project co-ordinator of Polio for Life, says late effects of polio is not all "doom and gloom". She says: "People are relieved to find that there is a name for the changes in their condition and it is not something vague and unrecognised."

Nation, herself a survivor and sufferer of late effects, has introduced the Polio for Life project in London by raising awareness borough by borough.

She first approached local newspapers and put up posters in libraries, local advice agencies and at pensioners' groups advertising Polio for Life's helpline and information pack. As a polio survivor, she mans the phone and is in a position to offer first-hand advice on coping with the symptoms of late effects of polio.

The British Polio Fellowship has focused its awareness work on London because of the multi-cultural population. It has identified a wide age group of polio survivors, with many in their teens and early 20s coming from countries where the disease has yet to be eradicated.

Another aspect of the project is self-management groups, which the fellowship plans to start in London this summer. The courses were originally developed at Stamford University in the US for people living with chronic illnesses, and all health authorities will have to offer them from next year.

Research on the late effects of polio began in the US and Australia and it has since been recognised in the UK. The symptoms begin to reoccur 30 to 40 years after the acute onset of the disease.

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