SILL VIVID: Neil Bonnell stands outside of Scots PGC and reflects on the 1980s flu outbreak that left 40 students bed-bound.
SILL VIVID: Neil Bonnell stands outside of Scots PGC and reflects on the 1980s flu outbreak that left 40 students bed-bound.

SURVIVORS’ WARNING: ‘Follow guidelines’

IT MAY have been more than 70 years ago but the effects of Warwick's last health epidemic still linger in the minds of survivors, who are warning younger generations to listen to medical experts - or else.

In the 1950s, the Southern Downs found itself face-to-face with a polio outbreak.

More than six people died in Warwick alone and by the time a vaccine was developed, it's estimated 20,000-40,000 Australians developed paralytic polio. During the height of the epidemic, state borders and schools were closed and quarantine measures were introduced.

Known as the "silent epidemic", the elderly and very young were most at risk.

One of these was John Lamb, who contracted the viral disease when he was six or seven.

While he can't remember what the disease felt like at the time, to this day he walks with a limp.

"I have a bit of a painful leg they tell me could be post-polio syndrome," he said.

"I don't remember a lot about it but I know I was crook for a while. I was kept at home and kept away from everybody but it wasn't officially isolation or anything like that."

His wife, Carolyn, said it had a massive impact on Mr Lamb's family.

Not only did he contract the viral infection but his cousin in Maryborough was also a survivor, with side effects

"I can remember his mother telling me about when John got the polio and she burst into tears," Mrs Lamb said.

"It was something that affected her all her life."

A strong supporter of vaccines, Mr Lamb worried the coronavirus risk wouldn't be over until one was created and until then he warned younger generations not to become complacent.

"In the short term, isolation is drastic but in the long-term, without isolation we're looking a damn sight worst," he said.

"There would be people dying left, right and centre.

"The young ones have been fortunate in the fact they've lived in disease-free society.

"So many haven't been through anything like this for a long time. They haven't lived through a time where these sort of diseases have gone rampant."

He said part of Australia's success in overcoming the pandemic so far had been its ability to lock down - something he said would be "mad" not to continue for another month at least.

"I think people are very foolish if they don't follow guidelines," he said,

"They're not something imposed lightly, they're what the health people recommend we do.

"You may not like it that much but you've got to do what's best from everyone."

 

WORLD RENOWN: Nobby nurse, Sister Elizabeth Kenny was known across the world for her polio therapy and demonstrates the region’s close ties to the epidemic. PHOTO: SLQ
WORLD RENOWN: Nobby nurse, Sister Elizabeth Kenny was known across the world for her polio therapy and demonstrates the region’s close ties to the epidemic. PHOTO: SLQ

 

As proponents push for things to return to normal, another survivor of a Warwick outbreak says little normalcy can occur during the health crisis.

In the 1980s, the region was hit by a flu outbreak that forced Warwick schools to adapt their learning, not unlike today

Neil Bonnell was teaching at Scots PGC when the outbreak left 40 male boarding students bed-bound and quarantined.

"The junior dorm was taken over as isolation occurred and we gave parents the option to leave their kids at school or send home," he said.

"Most thought it was better to stay here and let them be treated.

"There was nothing we could do but let the virus work its way through."

Unlike Mr Lamb, Mr Bonnell wanted to see some restrictions amended for the region.

"I think we've gotten to the stage that if Warwick simply cut itself off, there's no reason the internal economy couldn't just continue to function," he said.

"In 10 or 20 years, they'll look back and write a thesis about whether our response was too great, too little, too slow or too quick."

 

What do you think? Is it time to lift restrictions or persevere? Visit our Facebook page and let us know.

 

 

 



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