Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rotary Club and Polio Battle

Rotary International's mission is to raise $200 million in the fight to eradicate polio worldwide. The Bill Gates Foundation will match the amount.

Pictured L-R are Rotary's President-Elect Ann Wolford, The John Cooper School's Deb Spiess, and Rotarian Bill Friebel.

Rotary Club of The Woodlands members recently sported purple shirts and collected donations in an iron lung they had on display at Market Street. For each donation, the donor’s Pinkie finger was marked with purple ink. When children are immunized in Third World countries, the Pinkie is colored purple to indicate that child received the vaccine.  It’s a fun reminder of how we are helping make those purple Pinkies possible!

The group has collected more than $1,500 by fundraising!  It will continue to raise funds on an ongoing basis with many activities.  People are encouraged to donate to Rotary Club of The Woodlands Foundation, PO Box 7353, The Woodlands, TX 77387-7353.  Please indicate the donation is for Polio Plus.

Polio, or more properly poliomyelitis, was one of the most feared and studied diseases of the first half of the 20th Century. Though the Salk--and later the Sabin--vaccines have essentially eliminated the disease in developed countries, many mysteries remain regarding polio.    

What is Polio? Polio is a viral illness that produces no symptoms in 95% of cases.  In 4-8% of cases, the illness appears as a mild form with flu-like symptoms, sore throat, and respiratory infection. A more serious form is associated with aseptic meningitis--with sensitivity to light and neck stiffness.  The most severe cases cause muscle paralysis and can result in death.

How do you get it? Polio is usually transmitted by ingesting material contaminated with human waste.  Drinking contaminated water and not washing hands are common culprits, making the eradication of polio in poor countries extremely difficult.

Prevention: In the US, it’s recommended for children to have 4 doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) between the ages of 2 months and 6 years.

Iron Lung:  In the height of the polio epidemic, the standard treatment involved placing a patient with a paralysis of the breathing muscles in an “iron lung”--large machine that actually pushed and pulled the chest muscles to make them work.  The damaged limbs were often kept immobilized because of confinement to the iron lung.  Where polio still exists, ventilators and some iron lungs are still in use today.

The Gates Foundation Challenge:  Rotary International has spent millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours on polio eradication. Today polio exists in 4 countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria (PAIN).  Through a challenge grant from the Gates Foundation, the Rotary will raise $200 million and the Foundation will match it. 

Great Strides Made:  In 1988, there were 355,000 cases of polio in 125 countries. In 2009, there were fewer than 400 cases worldwide! 

For more information, contact Rotarian Kay Hohman at 281-363-8104.

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