Devastating effects of polio still haunt coast

Dr Vas Vasudev during an overseas immunisation programme against polio with vials of the vaccine in his hands.
Dr Vas Vasudev during an overseas immunisation programme against polio with vials of the vaccine in his hands.
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There are around 20 people suffering the effects of contracting polio as children in Blackpool.

That’s according to the secretary of a group set up to help such people in the North West who is aiming to raise awareness as World Polio Day is marked around the globe.

Blackpool Tower will shine red between 8pm and 9pm tonight to mark the day, displaying the words End Polio Now.

Muriel Bradshaw, who is on the committee of the Blackpool Branch of the British Polio Fellowship, contracted polio when she was just two years old, and although the virus presents itself like flu it commonly leaves victims with lasting muscle weakness.

Muriel, 65, now relies on a wheelchair to get around as she has little strength in her legs.

She said: “There was an epidemic where I was living in Glasgow in 1950, and I’m left with something that’s a lot like arthritis as my muscles are very tired and it can leave you very fatigued.

“Most people start to suffer in their 40s when they had polio as a child.”

When Muriel was younger, she had to use crutches to get around.

An immunisation scheme began in 1988 led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Rotary Foundation and Europe was declared polio-free in 2002 and each child still receives the polio vaccine.

But the disease is known to exist in countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Blackpool Rotarian Dr Vas Vasudev, who is also suffering after contracting polio as a child, has been involved in some overseas immunisation campaigns.

He said: “As long as there is a single case of polio anywhere in the world, no child is safe from the disease. A carrier of polio can come to this country and all of sudden the disease is back. There’s always that danger, anywhere in the world.

“We are determined to get rid of it and there is a concerted effort to completely eradicate it by 2018. If we give up now we are letting down future generations of children.”

Blackpool’s British Polio Fellowship offers social events for people still living with the effects of Polio and others who know people who have had the disease.

It meets every three months at Highfield Community Centre, and includes shopping trips, special lunches and games competitions both regionally and nationally.

Anyone interested in joining can contact Muriel on 07981 402469.