Every child deserves the right to walk, run and play without fear of paralysis. Although polio is largely unknown in developed nations, it is a disease that still robs children of that right in some parts of the world. It is transmitted via contaminated water and food supplies, enters through a child’s mouth, and then multiplies in the throat and intestines. In a matter of hours, the poliovirus can enter the brain and spinal cord, destroying the cells that enable muscles to contract and causing paralysis. In 5 to 10 percent of cases, the child dies.
The good news is that polio is completely preventable. Since the virus cannot live long outside the human body, the proper immunization of children can not only prevents the disease, it can eradicate it by stopping transmission of the virus. Although polio currently circulates in only a few countries, it is a highly infectious disease and spreads rapidly. As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere are at risk. Only the complete eradication of polio will ensure that no child ever again suffers polio’s cruel effects.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was formed in 1988. It is composed of Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also has a significant interest in the eradication of polio and is working closely with GPEI — the Gates Foundation has contributed more than $1 billion since 1985. When GPEI began in 1988, polio infected more than 350,000 children each year. In 2012, there were only 223 new cases.
The wild poliovirus had been confined to only three countries — Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan — and the virus is being contained within increasingly smaller geographic areas within those countries. During the past year, there have been some cases in previously polio-free countries in Africa. This type of activity demonstrates the critical importance of 100 percent elimination of the poliovirus.
The effort to finally eradicate polio in the world is a very complicated and expensive proposition. Even though the number of new cases has been drastically reduced, the annual tab at the present time is still approximately $1 billion, from all sources, which includes both government and private sector funding. All 34,000 Rotary clubs around the world help fund this effort.
During the past five years, our generous community, at the Plumas County Public Health Agency’s annual drive-through flu clinic, has contributed in excess of $5,600. Quincy Rotarians will again be asking for your help at this year’s clinic, Friday, Oct. 25. Your donations will be greatly appreciated — together we can eliminate this dread disease from the world forever!