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Doing our part to eradicate world polio

Editor, Ceres Courier,

Over the eons, parents have had much to worry about when it comes to their children's health and wellbeing. Slowly but surely many of the threats have been minimized or eliminated through advances in housing, education, sanitation, nutrition, and health care.

One of the major concerns to my parents was the threat posed by polio. Both as a killer and a cause of irreversible muscle paralysis, thousands were effected periodically in epidemics that swept countries all over the world. The iron lung, the precursor to the modern ventilator, and leg braces and wheel chairs that helped many with paralysis to gain mobility, became the symbol of this affliction.

Thanks to the groundbreaking work of doctors Salk and Sabin on vaccinations to prevent this terrible disease, the methodical elimination of polio in the U.S. and the developed world began. Indeed, current generations of youth in many of these countries haven't even heard of it.

But polio continued, often unabated, in the developing world. As recently as 1985 there were an estimated 350,000 per year cases of paralysis due to polio, were the lack of vaccinations and proper sanitation were the fertile crucibles in which it thrived.

That was the year when a special project in the Philippines, spearheaded by local Rotarians, proved that with adequate vaccinations of children, endemic polio infestation could be eliminated from a country and kept from reoccurring. Based on this success a partnership was formed between Rotary International UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, with the goal of eliminating polio from the face of the earth.

Thus began a worldwide assault on this ancient and powerful adversary. Despite the road blocks posed by logistics, from governments, and from local religious leaders, methodical progress was made country by country. With the last infected country in Africa, Nigeria, not reporting a case of polio in over a year, there are only two areas in the world - Pakistan and Afghanistan - where polio is still an endemic threat. So far this year only 48 cases have been reported in these regions. Polio is being pushed closer and closer to extinction.

Estimates are that 8 to 10 million individuals throughout the world have been spared paralysis due to polio since this campaign began. But the campaign is far from over. Due to the mobility of the world's population, the growing population of refugees, as well as vaccination complacency in many areas where the memories of polio are much diminished, there are occasional flare-ups outside the endemic countries.

With this in mind the original partners and the newly added Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has called for Oct. 24 as World Polio Day. We want people to know that polio still poses a threat to the health and well-being of children all over the world, and that anyone can get involved to join the battle to accelerate its demise. Contact a member of your local Rotary club, or go to for more information.

David Hosmer,
Ceres Rotary Club

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