Few people I know ever think about polio. That makes sense. Natural polio has not occurred in the Americas since 1979. Remember all those shots you got when you were a kid? One of those series of shots was a polio vaccination, so you’re probably pretty safe. However, the world is not completely polio free. Four countries currently are reported to have endemic polio: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and (you guessed it) India. Before I continue, let’s take a break to learn a little about this dreaded disease.
Polio is caused by a virus that lives in the intestines and human feces. It is generally transferred orally (changing diapers, not washing hands effectively, infected food, etc). Mild symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting and fatigue. Serious symptoms include severe headache, stiff neck/back and muscle pain. The most severe cases of polio may see victims suffering from muscle paralysis, respitory failure, and difficulty swallowing. There are treatments for those suffering from the disease. Antibiotics are used for secondary infections. Analgesics are taken for pain. Patients are also instructed on proper diet and exercise to help ease suffering. While there is no cure, the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” can be interpreted literally in the case of polio. Vaccinations, given as four scheduled injections before the age of six, are basically 100% effective in preventing the disease.
While we don’t really think about polio much, it is a major concern of people in the aforementioned countries. If only someone or some organization would step up and lead the charge to rid the world of this scourge. *Trumpet Sounds* Rotary to the rescue!!!
Starting in 1985, Rotary began the PolioPlus program with the goal of eradicating polio. Besides raising funds, over one million men and women of Rotary have donated their time and personal resources to help immunize nearly 2 billion children during National Immunization Days (NID) throughout the world. We actually got the opportunity to participate in one of these NIDs while in India. It was a day I won’t ever forget.
I can’t continue this post without first mentioning the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization has donated over $355 million to help the fight against polio! In 2009, Rotary pledged to raise $200 million in matching funds within three years.
“We are making this grant and asking you to raise a total of $200 million by June 30, 2012, because we know eradication doesn’t come in an instant,” Bill Gates said. “If we all have the fortitude to see this effort through to the end, then we will eradicate polio.”
I just went to the website and donated $25. I am making a challenge to all of my friends, family, coworkers, and kiddos to at the very least match my donation. $25 is a small sacrifice to make to say that you were a part of only the second time a disease in humans has been eradicated (smallpox was the other).
Post a comment after you’ve donated! Here’s the link…
When Rotary started the PolioPlus program, more than 350,000 children worldwide were infected annually by this crippling and sometimes fatal disease. In 2008, fewer than 2,000 children were infected, a reduction of more than 99 percent. Eradication clearly is within reach—but polio remains a threat until the day the world is certified polio-free.