by Kirby Lindsay, posted 21 Apr 2014
Through May, at Hale’s Ales Brewery, patrons will be able to throw their pocket change – and any more money they want – into collection buckets set out by the Rotary Club of Fremont. This is an expanded version of their ‘Making Change With Pocket Change’ campaign, as they ask our community to join in, financially, with the ‘Global Polio Eradication Initiative.’
Polio is a completely preventable disease. Today, most young Americans cannot comprehend how devastating this virus was to children here because they, and all their friends, got routinely vaccinated against it, and all but obliterated it, in America. However, other parts of the world can still see a child contract polio after ingesting water or food that contained the disease, or having contact with another child that unknowingly carried it. The poliovirus can enter the brain and spinal cord of a non-immunized child, in a matter of hours, and destroy the cells that enable muscles to contract and cause permanent paralysis. In 5 – 10% of cases, the child dies.
Keep The Number Low
“The end game here is very expensive,” explained John Booker, a Fremont Rotarian, and an Emeritus Professor of Earth & Space Science at the University of Washington. “We have hundreds of kids contracting the disease,” he explained, and yet we, “have to immunize millions and millions of children to keep [the number] that low.”
Since 1985, when Rotary International launched its effort to immunize the world against polio – called Polio Plus and End Polio Now – the number of polio cases has declined by 99%. The number of countries which continue to be polio endemic has declined from over 125 (in 1988,) to three in 2012. Yet, as Booker noted, Rotary’s contributions to the global polio eradication effort will exceed $1.2 billion by the time the world is certified polio-free. Not to mention, an army of Rotary volunteers have spent their own time mobilized at clinics, assisting in immunization and polio education.
“It’s costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year to stamp it out,” Booker observed, “but if we do, it could save millions of dollars a year that could be spent on something else.” The incredible effort put forward by Rotarians, and its partner organizations, could be put to work addressing another vital cause, or illness, if the remaining poliovirus (two other strains have been eradicated already) is ended.
From A Preventable Disease
The poliovirus is most commonly passed, today, through drinking polluted water or food, “but that’s not the only way,” Booker explained, “one kid can pass it to another.” If not eradicated, polio can once again spread through the developing countries of the world – and return to industrialized nations such as ours.
Right now, only three nations have polio – Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan – but even countries that have immunized their populations can see a flare up. In 2011, China experienced a new outbreak of polio due to an importation from Pakistan that brought the disease to a vulnerable child. With people, and products, flowing freely around the world, the U.S. could easily experience another outbreak of polio, leaving children sick, paralyzed or dying from a preventable disease.
Rotary Clubs do put a lot of effort into creating clean water in areas of the world where it can still be a luxury. Booker has been involved in two significant water purification projects: he helped build a cistern, and worked on the exporting of solar powered water generators to help villages in South Sudan. However, he acknowledge that purifying the water isn’t going to wipe out polio, “because that’s only part of it,” he said.
Meanwhile, vaccinating a child against polio costs only 60 cents. Collecting pocket change can make the biggest difference. Members of the Fremont Rotary give their pocket change at weekly meetings, and the small club gives approximately $1,000 a year to the PolioPlus program.
With an end in sight for wiping polio off the face of the earth, the fundraiser at Hale’s is an important step in this international vaccination effort. “The economics are pretty positive,” Booker said. He hopes every Hale’s patron gives $1 each into the buckets at Hale’s – or more. If the campaign works well, he said, Fremont Rotary may involve other restaurants and bars around the area. “It’s like Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ‘March Of Dimes’ campaign,” Booker observed, “which was originally for polio.”
It’s been decades and decades – generations even – since Americans feared polio. “I do remember,” Booker said, “I wasn’t allowed to go swimming in the summer because my mother was fearful of polio.” With a few dollars more, this fear could remain a distant memory from the childhoods of our older generation, and be removed permanently from the concerns of parents world-wide.
Please consider visiting Hale’s in May and giving generously to the ‘End Polio Now’ effort. If you want to take a greater part, join the ‘Making Change’ kick-off celebration April 29th from 5:30p – 7:00pm at Hale’s.
“If we can’t eradicate polio by 2018,” Booker observed, “we may never be able.” With only three countries still having children becoming paralyzed, or dying, of polio, the time is now to immunize and stop the spread of this preventable disease. Please help.
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©2014 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.