SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Last week, Rotarians celebrated World Polio Day for the dramatic stemming of the disease globally through mass immunizations conducted in part by the Rotary Foundation. Poliomyelitis is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines. Therefore, the strategy to eradicate polio is based on preventing infection by immunizing every child to stop transmission and ultimately make the world polio free.
The Rotary Foundation, together with the World Health Organization and UNICEF, began its global effort to eradicate polio in 1988. More than $1.2 billion later, these efforts have reduced the number of annual diagnosed cases by 99 percent.
Now rare in the Western world, polio is still endemic to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Therefore, Rotary's efforts continue on.
Younger Americans might not know anyone afflicted by this crippling disease. So what exactly is polio, and how is it contracted? Poliomyelitis is a disease caused by infection with the poliovirus. It can strike at any age, but it mainly affects children younger than 5. The virus is spread through person-to-person contact and through ingestion of material contaminated with the virus found in feces.
Many survivors of polio have led productive and successful lives, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Alan Alda, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Neil Young, Itszhak Perlman, Francis Ford Coppola, Mia Farrow, Jack Nicklaus, Donald Sutherland, Dinah Shore, Mitch McConnell, and even Ruma - a man depicted on a 3,000-year-old Egyptian tablet.
There are 1.2 million Rotarians globally. Coincidentally, Rotarians have contributed $1.2 billion to the fight to eradicate polio, one of Rotary International's primary
Cynthia Berecek is the president of the Snowmass Village Rotary Club.