What would you think if you woke up on Monday morning with a slight headache and by the end of the week you could not move your legs? This nightmare has recently occurred to clusters of children in Colorado and Minnesota as the Centers for Disease Control reported a mysterious outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis, which mimics symptoms of polio.
Could it happen here? It already has. In 1941, newspapers across Alabama were reporting widespread polio outbreaks statewide. Some simply contracted flu-like symptoms. Others were permanently paralyzed, some died. Why?
Polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system. It can be transmitted through direct contact with someone infected with the virus or through contaminated food and water. There is no cure for polio but it can be prevented.
Fortunately, in 1955 Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine which stopped the virus dead in its tracks. In 1979, Rotary, an international service organization, and Mobile area clubs chose to lead the way to eradicate polio around the world and thus help protect all of us. As a result of Rotary’s efforts more than 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated and protected from polio.
Rotary’s World Polio Day is Oct. 24, Dr. Salk’s birthday. This year the Mobile Sunrise Club celebrated the date at their regular club meeting. Members divided into teams and played Jeopardy! with questions about the Rotary International Fund and Polio Plus campaign. Guests were welcomed and encouraged to participate. Next year the club plans on putting on more special events to raise awareness and support to end this dreaded disease.
How effective has Rotary been? In 1979 there were more than 350,000 polio cases worldwide in more than 100 countries. As of today, only two countries are still reporting cases of the wild polio virus. But we cannot rest until every country gets the all-clear. Teams of doctors, nurses, researchers, analysts and field study personnel must be supported along the way in order to keep polio at bay and ultimately defeat it.
The vaccine itself is very inexpensive because Dr. Salk and those who followed him chose not to get a patent, recognizing this lifesaving discovery was bigger and more beneficial to the world than any paycheck. Salk is a true inspiration of the love he had for his fellow man.
Mobile Rotary Sunrise invites you to join us in “Be the Inspiration,” be a part of history by giving generously to end polio now. The club meets on Wednesday mornings at the Mobile Country Club. Each year the club raises money for the fight against polio and local charities. Guests are always welcome.
To donate or find out more about Mobile Rotary Sunrise and other local Rotary clubs, go to rotary.org. You, too, can help end polio today.
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