Article Contributed by
Rotary Club of Jamestown
The Rotary Club of Jamestown invites our entire community to join the millions around the world reaching out on World Polio Day to raise awareness, funds and support to end polio – a vaccine preventable disease that still threatens children in parts of the world today.
Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a paralyzing and potentially fatal disease that still threatens children in some parts of the world. Poliovirus invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in hours. It can strike people of any age but mainly affects children under five. Polio can be prevented by vaccines, but it is not curable. Unlike most diseases, polio can be eradicated.
For more than 30 years, Rotary and its partners have driven the effort to eradicate polio all around the world. Rotary’s PolioPlus program was the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication by vaccinating children on a massive scale. Continuing on as a core partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary focuses on advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and awareness-building.
Rotary members all over the world have contributed $1.9 BILLION and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $8 BILLION to the effort.
The Rotary Club of Jamestown itself has contributed over $153,500 to the efforts to eradicate polio from the globe.
The first descriptions of the disease were noted in 1789, and in 1840, Jacob Heine described the clinical features of the disease in addition to its involvement of the spinal cord. The first outbreak of polio in epidemic form in the U.S. occurred in Vermont in 1894, with 132 cases.
The polio virus usually enters the environment in the feces of someone who is infected. In areas of poor sanitation, the virus easily spreads from feces into the water supply, or, by touch, into food or water. In addition, polio is so contagious, direct contact with a person infected with the virus can cause polio. Most often, it has affected children five and under. Those of us who were young children in the early 1950s, remember our parents telling us NOT to jump in piles of leaves lining the street gutters in the fall, thinking that the virus may linger there.
Flu-like symptoms, which could last for up to 10 days could simply go away (abortive polio) or develop into paralytic polio which causes loss of reflexes, severe muscle aches or weakness and loose and floppy limbs (flaccid paralysis). Many of these cases required iron lungs to assist the patient in breathing or resulted in paralysis needing crutches, walkers or wheelchairs.