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Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (J Rehabil Med 2014; 46: 568–608)
This special issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine contains all abstracts of the 2nd European Polio Conference: ‘Post-Polio Syndrome, A Condition Without Boundaries’, which was held from 25 to 27 June 2014 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
After the successful first European Polio Conference ‘Post-Polio Syndrome, A Challenge Of Today’ in September 2011, in Copenhagen, the scope of the present Conference was broadened to cover all health care issues of poliomyelitis: from the global health perspective to successfully complete the endgame of the eradication of the polio virus, to the needs and treatment of polio survivors from young to old in low- and high-income countries.
The Conference theme refers to the fact that many of the estimated 20 million people around the world, who are disabled by polio, have or may develop post-polio syndrome, that is characterized by late, progressive decline in muscle function, resulting in increasing disability, later on in life.
Across the world, the health problems of polio differ, mainly depending on the moment in time that polio vaccination was successfully implemented in the health care system and countries became free of polio. In developed countries polio vaccination was introduced in the late fifties of the previous century. In these countries most polio survivors are in their late fifties or older and many suffer from post-polio syndrome. In countries were polio epidemics lasted longer, and in some where polio is still endemic, there are many young polio survivors who require treatment for their polio deformities to improve their physical functioning and societal participation. In many of these countries, the numbers of polio survivors have decreased rapidly over the last decades due to the increasing success of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Many of them will be confronted with post-polio syndrome in the coming years.
Not only does the polio virus cross borders between countries, also the polio survivors do. In Europe there are many young polio survivors who contracted polio outside Europe in their country of birth. But the knowledge of health care providers differs between countries. In countries where new polio cases disappeared decades ago, there is knowledge of how to treat post-polio syndrome, but the medical knowledge on how to treat severe polio deformities at younger age is limited. The opposite is true for countries where new cases of polio remained to occur until recent days or still occur.
Although new polio cases are strongly reduced in number, and hopefully will cease to occur in the near future, there are many polio survivors alive today who do require good medical care and rehabilitation for decades to come. In this 2nd European Polio Conference health care workers and researchers of many disciplines involved in polio prevention and treatment, and polio survivors living in Europe and around the world, came together to ‘cross boundaries’ by interacting and sharing knowledge, with a shared aim, which was to improve care provision and to promote research in this field.
Frans Nollet, MD, PhD
Chair, 2nd European Polio Conference
Academic Medical Centre
Department of Rehabilitation
Amsterdam, The Netherlands