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March 21, 1986

Medical News & Perspectives

JAMA. 1986;255(11):1397-1404. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370110015002

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Decades after polio epidemics, survivors report new symptoms  They endured the pain and muscle weakness of paralytic polio. After months and sometimes years of muscle reeducation, they shed their braces and canes and abandoned their wheelchairs. Now thousands of polio survivors are facing an old enemy in new guise: fatigue, weakness, and pain that researchers believe is linked to their initial bout of poliomyelitis.Called postpolio syndrome, postpolio progressive muscular atrophy (PPMA), or the late effects of polio, the disorder is being diagnosed with increasing frequency as the estimated 300,000 survivors of epidemics during the 1940s and 1950s pass what some believe is a 30-year latency period.Hence, as the pool of susceptible persons increases, what had been uncommon but clinically recognized polio sequelae (Univ Pa Med Bull 1903;16:31-37; Bull Neurol Inst NY 1935;4:35-63) have become frequent and frightening reminders of a disease thought to have been conquered, at