October 24th is World Polio Day – Have we made a difference? Yes we have.
As the number of polio cases approaches zero, the challenges facing Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are changing. We still need to reach every child with the polio vaccine – and we’re using innovative strategies to do that, in spite of geopolitical uncertainties. That’s only one part of our job – we’re tackling vaccine-derived poliovirus, which can begin to spread in places where vaccine coverage is low. We’re becoming disease detectives, following up on any shred of evidence that wild poliovirus might still be circulating, and we’re fine-tuning our plan to keep the world free of polio forever.
Here’s what you need to know about where we are now.
- Polio is an intestinal virus that is spread through contact with the faeces of an infected person, which can contaminate water or food.
- The poliovirus is a single positive strand of RNA enclosed in a protective coating called a capsid.
- There are three variations, or serotypes, of the poliovirus. They differ in their outer coatings.
- The few cases of wild poliovirus that we see now are all of type 1. The last case of type 2 was in 1999, and the world was certified free of type 2 polio in 2015. The last case of type 3 was in 2012.
- The virus infects only humans, mainly children under five because they are least likely to be fully vaccinated. There is no cure.
How we get infected
- The virus latches onto a receptor on the surface of a cell, multiplying in the lining of the intestines.
- It enters the cell and hijacks the cell’s own machinery to make copies of itself.
- The virus is released to infect neighbouring cells, spreading from the digestive tract to lymph nodes and the bloodstream.
- The virus replicates and is excreted through faeces, starting the cycle again.
Rotary and its partners worked to reach 430 million children in 39 countries during polio immunization campaigns in 2017.
What has Rotary done?
Rotarians have negotiated ceasefires
As Sri Lanka’s chair of Rotary’s polio eradication efforts, past president of Rotary International Ravindran led efforts to eradicate polio from Sri Lanka. His country became one of the first in Asia to become polio-free in Asia. The PolioPlus task force which he headed consisted of representatives from Rotary, UNICEF and the Sri Lankan government. The partnership successfully negotiated a ceasefire with the northern militants to allow polio immunizations to continue during scheduled National Immunization Days.
Polio programme has had an impact on other childhood diseases
However eradicating polio has meant that vaccines for other diseases have reached children too. 2.6 million children die from measles but as a result of the immunisation programme that accompanies polio, deaths have been reduced to 89, 780 deaths which is an 85% decrease.
Rotary funds 12-19% of the Communicable Diseases’ Centres in Africa.
When the Ebola outbreak occurred in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It was a Communicable Disease Centre in West Africa identified it. Health workers switched from polio vaccinations to controlling Ebola.
Donating to polio improves the health of children and ensures their future.
Join Rotary International on October 24th by marking World Polio Day and raise awareness of this incredibly journey and effort by one of the worlds leading service organisations
Visit endpolio.org for more information