A recap on Rotary’s fight against polio

In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus programme to tackle global polio eradication through mass vaccinations.
In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus programme to tackle global polio eradication through mass vaccinations.

Rotary Club of Elkins (West Virginia, District 7530) members heard an update on Monday about the organisation’s worldwide efforts to eradicate polio.
In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus programme to tackle global polio eradication through mass vaccinations. At that time, the world saw about 1,000 cases per day, said Ron LaNeve, polio chairman for the district and a past president and past district governor.
So far this year, five cases have been reported — three in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan, LaNeve told Rotary Club members during the regular weekly meeting at the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA. No cases of the virus have been reported this year in Nigeria, he added.
Polio is a paralysing and potentially fatal disease that invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours, according to information from Rotary’s website. The incurable disease can strike at any age, but it mainly affects children under 5.
LaNeve said the PolioPlus programme includes a huge immunisation effort, with 190,000 volunteers.
“Their goal is to immunise 116 million children, which is more than roughly 60 times the population of West Virginia,” he said, noting many volunteers are in war-torn countries where they are risking their lives to help children.
“This has been going on a long time; it’s very serious,” he said of efforts to eradicate the disease.
Less than 75 polio cases were confirmed worldwide in 2015 — a reduction of more than 99.9 per cent since the 1980s, according to information from a Rotary fact sheet. Rotary has contributed nearly $2 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunise more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries.
Working alongside Rotary in the fight to end polio are the World Health Organisation, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and governments of the world, according to information on Rotary’s website, www.rotary.org.

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