Friday, May 25, 2012

Local Woman Featured in National Magazine for Her Work Fighting Polio

By Timothy Gillis

Ann Lee Hussey is featured in this month’s issue of Real Simple. The South Berwick native has traveled twenty times around the globe, bringing polio vaccines to poor countries. Most recently, she was in Chad. “I’m going back to Nigeria in the fall. I plan to return to Chad and the South Sudan,” she said from her home this week. “Even though these countries are not on the endemic lists, their neighboring countries are, so the neighbors are at risk.”
Hussey was in India in February of last year when the World Health Organization took India off the polio endemic list. But her efforts reach far beyond that. “Some people just go to India, or places they know have trouble. I like to go to other places that are also at risk,” she said.
Hussey, who suffers from polio herself, has made it a life quest to help eradicate the disease. “Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus,” according to the WHO website. “It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5 to 10 percent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.”
Hussey said the disease is less prevalent now, but is still a problem in many parts of the world. “Most cases are now found in areas of poor sanitation resulting in fecal contamination of water, and primarily occurs in children under the age of two,” she said. “The first vaccine was available in April 1955 by Dr. Jonas Salk.”
All this globetrotting is taxing on Hussey, especially given her continued health concerns. “I have changes that I fear may be early signs of  PPS,” she said. PPS is post-polio syndrome, a progressive condition that causes muscular weakness, pain, and exhaustion for up to twenty-five percent of polio sufferers.
Her husband, Michael Nazemetz, is proud of the work his wife is doing, and of the national acclaim the magazine article brings with it. Often working behind the scenes as Hussey’s PR man, Nazemetz also knows full well how challenging all this travel is for someone with chronic joint and muscle aches so painful they interrupt sleep.
Hussey says it’s all worth it. Knowing she may be able to help rid the world of this deadly disease is a pretty good panacea. (courtesy photo)