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Group 3

Polio support group still there for each other decades on

Over 60 years on from the peak polio epidemics between the 1930s and 1960s, The Shepparton Polio Support Group still meets multiple times a year to support and learn from each other.

Giuliana Marogy, who had the disease as a very young child, described the group as a place where she could be around others with a similar experience.

“We support each other, we have a laugh as well. You don’t have to pretend, you can be yourself, whereas in society you have to put up a front,” she said.

“It’s a shared identity type of thing… we’re not afraid to ask for help here, whereas in society you’re not meant to ask for help. That’s the way I was brought up and I think the majority of us would be the same as well.”

Also known as poliomyelitis, polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system, with approximately one in 200 cases causing irreversible paralysis.

Although no one has caught the disease “wild” or locally acquired in Australia since 1972, survivors still deal with the neurological effects years later.

Many people who have had paralytic polio develop Late Effects of Polio (LEoP), and up to 40 per cent may develop Post-Polio Syndrome, which can cause symptoms such as new muscle weakness, decreased muscle endurance, breathing and swallowing difficulties and fatigue.

Rosemaree Ryan is a carer for her husband, who suffers from Post-Polio Syndrome decades after he caught the disease and says the group is also a valuable source of information.

“Every three months, you go and have lunch, they’ll bring in guest speakers and if not, you can chat to people. It didn’t happen for two years (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) so it’s nice to get back in,” she said.

The group, which is facilitated by the GV Health – Rural Allied Health Team, arranges guest speakers on relevant topics, including My Aged Care, Polio Australia and Post-Polio Victoria.

“You learn and you socialise so yeah, it’s a good group,” Rosemaree said.

October is Polio Awareness month, with World Polio Day marked on October 24; this year’s theme is “We’re still here” to raise awareness of the late effects of polio.

The Moroopna Water Tower and Monash Park Tree in Shepparton will be lit up orange to commemorate the occasion.