Submitted by Claudia Ellsworth, Rotary Club of University Place-Fircrest.
A day to celebrate the near eradication of an international disease that has affected millions. Polio, as some may remember, was called “infantile paralysis” in an earlier time. That’s because polio:
- Affects mainly children under the age of 5.
- Is highly contagious and those infected show no visible signs in the early stages.
- Polio (poliomyelitis) infects the spinal cord, causing permanent paralysis of arms, legs, or breathing muscles.
In 1985, Rotary International rose to the challenge of eradicating polio worldwide. Vaccines had been invented in the 1950’s, and in richer countries, the disease was eliminated in the 1960’s and 70’s. But large outbreaks continued around the world and in the 1980’s there were an estimated 350,000 cases worldwide, in some 125 countries. As a result of a worldwide vaccination campaign carried out mainly by volunteers, many of them from Rotary, the virus has been 99.99% eliminated. 122 countries have received support from PolioPlus grants.
Only Afghanistan and Pakistan currently have reported cases. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has just committed to continuing to vaccinate children. Rotary has invested more than US$2.2 billion in global polio eradication efforts. Rotary has also helped secure an additional $10 billion in donations for global polio eradication efforts from governments.