The world is on the brink of eradicating polio.
At the end of July, only eight cases were reported this year, the lowest ever in history.
When this initiative to eradicate polio started, more than 350,000 people were stricken by polio each year. But in spite of that good news, the battle continues, for we have to get rid of the poliovirus everywhere or it can come back, reinfecting places where it had previously been eliminated.
The poliovirus often attacks the arm or leg, which tend to shrivel from the disease. If the disease affects chest muscles, polio can be fatal, because the patient cannot breathe.
In 1955, the first vaccine against polio was released; it was hailed as a medical miracle. Since the virus can only reproduce in humans and live for a short time outside the human body, every person worldwide must become immune, so the virus is driven into extinction.
In 1985, Rotary introduced Polio-Plus – the pledge to immunize every child in the world with polio vaccine, and to raise $120 million. By 1988, Rotary had raised more than $247 million, more than double its goal.
That same year, Rotary pushed forward the Global Polio Eradication Initiative involving the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and UNICEF.
In 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation came on board, matching 2 for 1 every dollar raised by Rotarians. When in 2011 the last case was noted in India, many believed the world could indeed eradicate polio, so a renewed effort was undertaken.
In June, Rotary agreed to raise annually $50 million for the next 3 years, and the Gates Foundation will continue to match 2 for 1. Nations worldwide and key donors pledged $1.2 billion to the fight against the disease. With only three countries where the wild poliovirus circulates – Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria – the push is on!
Rotarians want to share an awareness to eradicate polio from our world. Therefore, the second annual End Polio Now Walk will be held Oct. 14 at Centennial Park in Rock Falls.
Registration will be at the Larson Shelter from 8:15 until 9 a.m., when a group photo will be taken before the walk along the Hennepin Canal and over the Rock River.
There is no registration fee, but donations will be accepted.
For a $20 donation, an End Polio Now T-shirt will be given, as long as the supply lasts.
Come join us to be a part of the legacy to live in a world that becomes polio-free, hopefully in our lifetime!
Note to readers: Don Lovett is president of Dixon Rotary, Betty Clementz is president of Rock Falls Rotary, and Mike Sprague is president of Sterling Noon Rotary.