Okay. So I got some response from my first blog on PolioPlus. A lot of the chat came from my Facebook page. If you want to see posts I put there, please visit https://www.facebook.com/charlie.wasser.

As part of informing my fellow Rotarians and the general public, my topic in this blog is the current state of the eradication effort. Yes, that means statistics. Yes sometimes statistics are so incredibly boring, who could possibly want to read them and ………..

The statistics here are good and bad. Before I get to the statistics, an overview of the countries still suffering under the yoke of their citizens getting infected by the polio virus is in order.

There are currently 3 countries in the world that are described as being endemic for the polio virus. Endemic means they are potential sources for the polio virus. The viruses that are in these countries each have their own genetic markers. This allows for the location of the source of the virus if a case of polio shows up in another country.

PAIN was an acronym used for polio that took the first letter of the then four endemic countries. January 13, 2013 marked two years since a child was paralyzed by wild poliovirus in India. The country was once considered the most complex challenge to achieving global polio eradication. On February 25, 2012, WHO removed India, one of the four remaining endemic countries, from the list of countries considered to have never interrupted the transmission of wild poliovirus. India has not had a case of polio since January 13, 2011 and no recent environmental samples have detected wild poliovirus. (Most of this paragraph is from the CDC’s website)

The fact that India, with all the political and geographic challenges inherent to India, was able to be certified polio free gives us hope the remaining 3 endemic countries can be certified polio free. The current strategy has a goal of the end of 2018 to be the time when the globe will be certified polio free. Is such a thing possible? I firmly believe it is. I do however look cautiously at what needs to happen……….

(okay, here comes the statistics part – you do want to study the chart!!!!)

COUNTRY           All of 2012                         January to October, 2013

Afghanistan              37                                                     6

Nigeria                    122                                                    49

Pakistan                    58                                                     39

Chad                           5                                                       0

Ethiopia                      0                                                       4

Kenya                          0                                                      14

Somalia                       0                                                    170

South Sudan               0                                                        3

The 3 endemic countries continue to make the progress we all want to see them make. Their number of new cases are dropping. However, people do travel easily. The expression used is that polio is only a plane ride away. Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan may be a perfect example of that. The genetic markers found in the virus of the people infected in the non-endemic countries indicate the source for all of them is Nigeria. More than likely, the 170 cases in Somalia are related to the political upheaval continuing there. People forced to migrate will do whatever they have to do to survive and will not follow basic hygiene or may not have access to vaccines. This is a breeding ground for all manner of illness of course including polio.

The Endgame Strategy takes into account the reality of case numbers exploding like they did in Somalia. The plan requires immediate response to these areas to get them back under control.

The statistics can be scary. There may be a tendency to assume we will only be able to control the polio virus and not eradicate it. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative through its members have shown that polio can be eradicated by doing such in India. The GPEI has also shown that 10,000,000 children under 5 will be paralyzed by polio over a 40 year peiod if we decide to stop the eradication effort and look to simply control outbreaks.

Where do we go from here?  Stay the course of eradicating polio completely from the face of the globe. Please follow this blog and feel free to share it and forward it to anyone you know. This is a worldwide effort that needs to be successful.

Charlie

PolioPlus Assistant Chair

Rotary District 5170

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Where Are We Today with Polio Eradication?

Aside

Introduction to Charlie’s Blog on Polio Eradication

Welcome to my blog about PolioPlus. PolioPlus is the name of the effort of Rotary International in its mission to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. The effort was started in 1985 in the Philippines by immunizing all the children in the Philippines.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (“GPEI”) was formed in 1988 after the World Health Organization (“WHO”) saw the efforts and success of Rotary International toward immunizing the children of the world.  WHO brought together the U.N.’s UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control in Atlanta (“CDC”) to join with Rotary in this global effort.  Now GPEI, through its 4 partners, is leading the fight to eradicate polio worldwide.  Its website, www.polioeradication.org,  each week publishes up-to-date information on the background, development and results of this effort. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has joined the effort as well as massive financial support from some of the world’s governments has helped the eradication effort.

I can hear a lot of you thinking out loud, “Polio, that is no longer a problem, I never hear about it anymore!!” If you were around in the 1940’s through 1970’s you remember polio epidemics, friends being stricken, and lining up for the Sabin vaccine coated sugar cubes. In the 1980’s and 1990’s in the United States there were still some major vaccination efforts. On August 20, 1994, the Americas were certified polio free. Hooray, polio all gone!!! Not quite…….

I was at the bank and sat chatting with the customer service representative. He could not be more than 25 years old. We got on the subject of Rotary, of which I am a member. I told him how wonderful I thought Rotary was and of course proud of the effort to eradicate polio worldwide. He smiled and nodded. I realized it was one of those smiles to be nice but he was either bored or too shy to admit he did not understand something I said. So I asked if he knew what polio is. His face brightened and said that it was some type of crippling disease from years ago but was gone. I corrected him and explained how it still is a problem in 3 countries considered endemic (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria). I explained how those countries had to be made polio free or the entire effort since 1985 was for naught and there was a chance of returning to 300,000 cases a year compared to the current under 300 cases a year.

Later that evening, a young relative came over to my home for dinner. He is 22. He was just hired by a high tech company that only hires the cream of the crop. I knew he would understand my upset with the other young man’s ignorance. I told him what transpired. He proudly told me that everyone should know polio was a horrible crippling disease but it had been eradicated. Again, that day I was upset at the lack of knowledge about polio.

I admit it, I am a big fan of the television program Glee. I think the story line is sort of funny but the actors are among some of the most talented singers and dancers I remember seeing. If you do not know the storyline, it is about the adventures of a glee club in a high school. One of the story lines had the principal demanding that the students get vaccinated against such diseases as polio (trust me, it may not sound it, but the show is light hearted and a comedy). One of the teachers tried to get the principal to back down from the demand by saying, “Come on, polio was just about eradicated in the 1950’s.” Luckily he was an actor reading a script and not a real life teacher telling students that polio has been eradicated.

A friend saw a post I have on my Facebook page about a seminar on polio. He sent me an email asking why the polio seminar. He thought only the anti vaxxers (parents refusing to vaccinate their children) were the problem these days. I explained about the 3 countries again. He asked to chat some more about it. He is in his 40’s.

Bottom line, the reason for this blog is to educate as many people as this blog can reach. I will post my thoughts sprinkled with data from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative which is made up of the 5 organizations mentioned in the beginning of this piece. I will also describe the vaccination efforts continuing to be implemented by members of Rotary worldwide. I hope to post at least once every 2 weeks and eventually once a week. Do me and the world a favor, become a regular reader of this blog and tell as many friends as you can to follow the writing here.

Charlie
PolioPlus Assistant Chair
Rotary District 5170

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