October 24 is World Polio Day

Submitted by John C. Clark

What do the Passenger Pigeon, the Carolina Parakeet, the Galapagos Mouse and the Black Andean Toad have in common?  They are all extinct.  Extinction usually is a bad thing.  We have lost these animal species forever.

But why should it matter to us if we have a few less species? The simple answer is that we are connected to and deeply dependent on other species. From pollination of our crops by bees, to carbon storage by our forests, and even the bacteria in our mouths, we rely upon biodiversity for our very existence. We neglect this at our own peril. And of course there are equally justified arguments for keeping species based purely on their aesthetic and cultural importance, or for their own sake.

But is all extinction bad?

It is important to note that extinction – the permanent loss of species – is a natural process that is counterpoint to speciation, the creation of new species through evolution.

However, the permanent extinction of one species was directly attributable to a combined world wide effort.  It took every country in the world to eliminate Variola major.  This was a very good thing.  Variola major is more commonly known as Small Pox and at one time was one of the deadliest diseases known to man.  It was wiped out in the 1970’s.

Today we are getting close to duplicating this feat again.  We are close to eradicating another disease causing species, the Poliovirus.  Many of us have seen what this organism can do.  There are still people among us that have had to do deal with the crippling effects of this organism.  Many of us know of people who have contracted Polio.  Many still remember the long lines waiting for the Polio vaccines in the early 60’s but the disease is still with us.

Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of 5.

Most know it as poliovirus. The virus is spread person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can attack the nervous system, and in some instances, lead to paralysis. Although there is no cure, there is a safe and effective vaccine – one which Rotary and our partners use to immunize over 2.5 billion children worldwide.


Polio mainly affects children under age 5.

There is no cure, but polio is preventable with a vaccine

Only three countries remain endemic.

We’ve reduced cases by 99.9% since 1988.

Until we end polio forever, every child is at risk.

Unless we eradicate polio, within 10 years we could see as many as 200,000 new cases each year, all over the world. The disease is endemic in only 3 countries, but unless we reach every child with the vaccine, no child anywhere is safe.

To end polio, we must stop transmission of the virus in the three countries where it remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. We must also keep all other countries polio-free until we’re certain it won’t resurface. Up to 60 high-risk countries still operate large-scale immunization campaigns to protect children against polio.

  Get ready for our 5th annual World Polio Day event, co-hosted with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We will stream live from Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle, Washington to bring together more than 50,000 viewers around the world. Join us as global health experts and celebrities share our progress on the road to polio eradication.  Visit www.endpolio.org/world-polio-day, Tuesday, October 24 at 4:30 PM Central Time .

Since Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative nearly 30 years ago, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to just 37 cases in 2016. To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, Rotary has committed to raising $50 million per year over the next three years in support of global polio eradication efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match Rotary’s commitment 2:1. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralyzing disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. Visit endpolio.org for more about Rotary and its efforts to eradicate polio.

How can you help?  Any and all donations will go to this worthwhile cause.  Contact any local Rotarian.


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