Post-polio support group marks 25th anniversary

PARKERSBURG – The Mid-Ohio Valley Post Polio Support Group celebrated its 25th anniversary Monday.

Area mayors and group members gathered at the Blennerhassett Hotel Monday to read a proclamation marking this week as Polio Awareness Week. Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell, Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews, Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz and Vienna Councilman Jim Miracle were present for the reading.

The group was formed in 1988 in Marietta by Becky White, and was a support group for polio survivors and their families. In its early years the group boasted more than 50 members, but now has a membership of about 15-20, with about 10 active members, said group President Warren Peascoe.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), polio is a viral disease that affects the spine and brain, causing damage to nerve endings and crippling paralysis. About 35,000 people were affected by the disease in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Since there is no known cure, scientists have instead focused on inoculations to contain and prevent the spread of the disease.

According to the CDC, the United States became polio-free by 1979, but the disease is still spreading in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and some areas of Africa.

Peasco, who had polio as a young child and never fully recovered, said the end of polio in the United States did not mean the end of suffering for families affected by the disease. The Mid-Ohio Valley Post Polio Support Group was created to offer support to those who’ve survived polio and those that care for them.

“We’re trying to educate people to the delayed effects of polio,” Peascoe said. “It’s called Post Polio Syndrome.”

Those who survived polio often began to regain some movement as new nerves took the place of those damaged by the disease. However, as survivors aged new symptoms began to emerge, such as fatigue, weakness, new paralysis, pain, breathing and swallowing problems, intolerance to cold, memory and concentration issues, and osteoporosis.

For more information on the support group visit www.ohiopolionetwork.org/id24.html.