The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Valley

October 25, 2013

World Polio Day, Oct. 24, 2013, Making History: Rotary’s End Game Plan

— LEWISBURG — On Oct. 24, Rotarians around the world observed “World Polio Day”, a day dedicated to bringing fresh awareness to the efforts to rid the world of this dreadful crippling disease. Lewisburg Sunset Rotarians gathered at the Union County Library in Lewisburg, joined by Rotarians from other clubs and watched the international live streaming presentation broadcast from Northwestern University in Chicago. Rotary leaders and health leaders laid out the current status of the wild polio virus in the world. Rotary International President Ron Burton stressed the importance to finish the job. We have the tools and with the help of many individuals and organizations who are becoming more involved to eradicate polio from the planet, it can be done, we can finish the job.

Polio cases have declined rapidly since 1979 when the first children in the Philippines were immunized through Rotary’s new program. Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, and for as little as 60 cents, a child can be protected against the virus for life. In 1985, Rotary International launched Polio Plus, the first and largest internationally coordinated private-sector support of a public health initiative. At that time, 1,000 new cases a day were reported. By 2012, this number dropped to less than one person per day; that’s a 99 percent reduction. The effort to end polio is led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which includes active partner Rotary International, along with UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and governments of the world. The Gates Foundation has announced a new matching 3-to-1 matching program for every dollar Rotary raises for polio eradication. This will help see the job to its finish.

Dr. Robert Murphy of Northwestern’s Feinstein School of Medicine and a member of the Center for Global Health spoke during the broadcast explaining that smallpox was completely eliminated from existence — the polio virus is next. To eradicate polio would benefit the children who will never suffer from paralysis and its other painful, deadly affects. Dr. Murphy explained that we are “this close” to finishing the job but “this close” is not enough. To slow down or stop the efforts now would be immoral and unethical; because we have the tools to reach the children and remove the remain 1 percent. We must completely eradicate the poliomyelitis virus to avoid recurrence. To eradicate means to completely wipe out the disease; with no more threat of surprise outbreaks in polio-free countries, and in the end, after the years of surveillance, no more need to vaccinate — polio would be gone. This would be a true global health success story.

Several notable speakers presented their stories, including Dennis Ogbe, a polio survivor, now a US citizen and paralympian, but most importantly an inspiration to others. Also, Emmy winning actress Archie Panjabi, an ambassador in Rotary’s Polio Plus public awareness campaign promotes eradication on an international level.

Dr. Bryce Aylward from the World Health Organization explained to the international viewing audience, that only a few cents will immunize a child. This fact coupled with the thousands of volunteers who travel on immunization missions and more than $1.2 billion dollars that have been raised to combat polio; have gotten us 99% done in eradication. India was one of four countries reporting new polio cases until 2011 when the last case was logged. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria continue to have new cases, but with the increased efforts these numbers are significantly smaller. Rotary and its worldwide partners cannot relax; however, we have learned the polio virus is only a plane ride away. New cases, tracked back to these three countries, have been reported in other non-endemic, regional locations. Once identified, cases were aggressively attacked and children vaccinated to stop the disease. The outbreaks only reaffirmed Rotary’s commitment to finish the job.

Dr. Aylward revealed “The Polio End Game Plan” during this broadcast, which is dedicated to eradicating polio completely by 2018. New partners are joining the fight, countries have made this their main health concern, the Red Cross has joined forces and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a new 3-to-1 matching program for every dollar donated; all to help finish this job forever. Polio cases are down 40 percent from this time last year showing that efforts are working.

For more information or to help Rotary make the final push to eradicate polio worldwide, go to http://www.endpolionow.org or visit your local Rotary Club. The Lewisburg Sunset Rotary Club invites interested professional, business and community-minded people to learn more about Rotary or about the Polio End Game Plan by joining a meeting on Mondays at 5:45p.m. at Puirseil’s Irish Pub, 17 S. Sixth St. in Lewisburg.

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