Many may remember, and some feared, the outbreaks of polio in the United States. By the 1950s, polio had become one of the most serious communicable diseases among children in the United States. In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died. While the last known case of polio originating in the United States was in 1979, in the late 1980s there were over 350,000 new cases each year in over 120 countries.
In 1985, Rotary International created PolioPlus, a program to immunize all the world’s children against polio. Together, in global partnership, Rotary began working with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others, to create a polio-free world. Since then Rotary International has contributed more than $1.6 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. Yet polio cases still occur in three countries.
This past January and February, Dolores McCumbers, Rotary Club of Garrettsville/ Hiram and Stephen Zabor, Rotary Club of Mantua, were in Malagaon, India as part of a National Immunization Team. We were there to provide a morale boast for the local Rotarians, workers from the World Health Organization and UNICEF and for local health workers who have been toiling for years to eliminate the threat of polio in India. A second reason was to demonstrate to those who were refusing the vaccine that it is important enough for us to travel around the world at our own expense to maintain India polio free.
On April 18th at 7:30 at Hilltop Church Stephen Zabor will talk about his experience in India and about the need to continue the effort to eradicate the threat of polio from the earth.