THE fight to halt the devastation caused by polio has been won in the modern world, but the battle continues in developing countries. And it is a battle which has been taken up by volunteers in Huntingdonshire, as ANGELA SINGER reports. POLIO, a disease

THE fight to halt the devastation caused by polio has been won in the modern world, but the battle continues in developing countries. And it is a battle which has been taken up by volunteers in Huntingdonshire, as ANGELA SINGER reports.

POLIO, a disease eradicated from the western world, is still prevalent in Africa and Asia.

One woman who knows just how devastating the disease can be is Elaine Sefton from Brampton.

She caught polio as a child and is now leading a campaign to prevent other children getting it.

There are four countries where polio persists: Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.

Take the first initial of each country and it spells PAIN, Mrs Sefton points out.

The 58-year-old is president of Cromwell Rotary Club, one of Huntingdon's three clubs which are banding together to raise awareness of polio and the funds to help fight it.

Mrs Sefton, a mother of two grown up children and the owner of a beauty salon in Brampton, is using her presidential year for the campaign.

As a child aged four, Mrs Sefton caught polio when she was on holiday with her family in Southport.

"My mother says I went beetroot red all over from head to toe and my legs wouldn't work. I spent six weeks in bed but I didn't have to have callipers and I made a full recovery.

"The doctors said I was very lucky that it had no lasting effects and that was because my mother called a doctor so quickly.

"I remember recovering in the garden and having to drink a lot of hot water. I also remember seeing other children in callipers and one child in hospital in an iron lung, unable to move just starring at a mirror on the ceiling."

Polio has almost been eradicated from the world, largely as a result of the immunisation programmes run by Rotarians over the past decade.

The work continues in Huntingdonshire with the launch of an awareness campaign on Saturday, February 27, at Chequers Court.

The Rotary clubs are keen to find businesses who will support the campaign by agreeing to display posters in their windows.

Throughout the year the Rotarians will also be fundraising for the polio eradication campaign.

Mrs Sefton said: "Bill Gates said he would give us $1million if we made it a whole-world campaign and raised that much. We did that and now he has raised the stakes saying he will match fund $250million if we can raise that."

INFORMATION: If you are a business prepared to offer Rotary a shop window to publicise the polio eradication campaign, contact Elaine Sefton on 01480 457642 or write to her at 115 High Street, Brampton, PE28 4RA. Donations with cheques made out to the Rotary Club of Huntingdon Cromwell can be posted to that address or you can make a £5 donation by texting 82010.

Polio facts

Polio is highly infections and caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis within hours

It can strike at any age but children under three make up over 50 per cent of cases

The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine

Initial symptoms are fever, tiredness, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs

One in 200 people become paralysed

There is no cure and it can be prevented only through immunisation.

Until the 1950s, polio crippled thousands of children every year in industrialised countries, but was eradicated by the vaccine developed by Jonas Salk