Wednesday, Jan 22 2014 06:00 AM

Guest Commentary: Polio, the fight continues

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Polio, or poliomyelitis, is an infectious viral disease that can strike at any age and affects a person's nervous system. In the late 1940s to the early 1950s, polio crippled an average of more than 35,000 people in the United States each year; it was one of the most feared diseases of the twentieth century.

Thanks to the polio vaccine, dedicated health care professionals, and parents who vaccinate their children on schedule, polio has been eliminated in this country for more than 30 years. However, this is not the case in the rest of the world, where polio continued to effect people in massive numbers until the eradication of polio became the cause of Rotary International.

Rotary, along with UNICEF, has reduced polio cases by 99 percent worldwide since the first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979. Rotary is incredibly close to eradicating polio and recently released the following report:

The final endemic con tries

PAKISTAN: 77 Polio cases recorded in 2013 compared to 57 on this date in 2012, with the most case reported on November 28, 2013 in Northern Waziristan. The situation is critical in the North where local leaders have suspended Polio immunization since June of 2012.

AFGHANISTAN: 11 Polio cases recorded in 2013 compared to 35 on this date in 2012. All 11 cases have been linked to cross-border transmission with neighboring Pakistan. So, when we wipe out Polio in Pakistan, it seems likely that Afghanistan will follow.

NIGERIA: 50 Polio cases recorded in 2013 compared to 118 cases on this date in 2012, with the most cases (from Kano) reported on September 10, 2013.

Polio is increasingly geographically restricted in Nigeria. Despite this being the rainy (high transmission) season, only 4 Polio cases have been reported in the last month and they have all come from the Kano & Borno States.

Importation countries

SYRIA: 17 Polio cases recorded in 2013. A large-scale immunization drive targeting 1.6 million children with vaccination for Polio, Measles, Mumps & Rubella started on October 24. Large-scale SIA's, targeting 22 million children in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine will continue for 6 -- 8 months.

SOMALIA: 183 Polio cases recorded in 2013, with the most recent reported on October 9 in Lower Shabele.

KENYA: 14 Polio cases reported in 2013, with the most recent case reported on August 14.

ETHIOPIA: 6 Polio cases reported in 2013, with the most recent case reported on October 20.

CAMEROON: 4 Polio cases reported in 2013, with the most recent case reported on October 30.

ISRAEL: Although no paralytic Polio cases have been reported, environmental samples continue to indicate the presence of Type I Polio virus.

For as little as 60cents a child can be vaccinated for life. Thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation every dollar donated by Rotary will be matched $2 to every $1. That makes each dollar a $3 donation towards eliminating polio.

If you would care to donate towards the full and complete eradication of polio, you can go to the following web page http://www.endpolio.org/donate. For more information about our local Rotary Club, Rotary Club of Tehachapi call 661-821-0086.

LINDA CARHART is a member of Rotary of Tehachapi.

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