As a young kid growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I remember people still being quite fearful of getting polio, even though by then two great scientists – Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin – had developed vaccines that were starting to get rid of the disease in the U.S.
Today, many people in the developed world think polio has been fully eradicated because you never hear about polio.
Due to a massive worldwide vaccination effort over the last 20 years, polio has been reduced by 99% and could be the second major infectious disease, after smallpox, to ever be eradicated. But the disease is still endemic in parts of four countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Stamping out polio once and for all is one of the foundation’s top priorities. As I have traveled around the world, I’ve seen the heartbreak this terrible disease brings to families and to children who contract it. During my most recent trips to Nigeria and India I’ve also seen the incredible progress being made. In Nigeria this year only eight cases have been reported, compared with hundreds last year.
For World Polio Day, Rotary clubs worldwide are participating in a push to raise funds and increase awareness needed to end this disease.
The polio program sets the stage for many other health efforts - and will be a huge win for the world when we finish.