Project Polio Eradication

What is Polio?

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. This disease mainly affect children under the age of 5. In the 1950’s before polio vaccines were available, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 case of paralysis each year in the United States and in 1952, 58,000 cases of polio were reported. Although there is no cure, there is a safe and effective vaccine. After the IPV vaccine in 1955 and the OPV vaccine in 1963, the number of polio cases fell rapidly to less than 100 per year in the 1960s and fewer than 10 per year in the 1970s. Thanks to widespread polio vaccination in the United States, there have been zero polio cases that have originated here since 1979. Polio was finally eliminated in the Americas by 1994. However, there have been cases of foreign travelers bringing the virus into the United States.

What is Rotary’s Involvement in the fight against Polio?

After the OPV vaccine was discovered in 1963, mass distribution of the “Silver Bullet” became the primary focus. On the 29th of September, 1979 RI President James Bomar gave 2 drops of oral polio vaccine in Manila thus launching what has been an incredible 39 year effort to eradicate polio worldwide. Rotary and our partners have used the OPV vaccine to immunize over 2.5 billion children worldwide.

What would happen if we stopped vaccinating?

If polio isn’t eradicated, within 10 years, as many as 200,000 children could be paralyzed by it each year. A polio-free world will be a safer world for children everywhere. If successful, polio would become only the 2nd disease to be eradicated in history.


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