World Polio Day is celebrated globally on 24 October each year. I know we have so many “Days” we can grow weary of them – yet many represent such great causes – Red Nose Day, World Cancer Day, World Arthritis Day and Clean Up Australia Day. Some Days are important, but others, such as ‘Howl at the Moon Day & Night’ or ‘World Jelly Bean Day’, are just for fun.
The purpose of World Polio Day is to create awareness of the importance of eradicating Polio and celebrate the efforts of the thousands of workers and volunteers who are committed to the End Polio Campaign. The day also commemorates the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the team that developed the first Poliomyelitis vaccine. The celebration of World Polio Day was initiated by the Rotary Foundation 10 years ago.
This year Rotary Clubs around the World are celebrating the Day by holding events such as lighting bridges and Public buildings, holding Pub Crawls or wearing red ponchos, bearing End Polio logos and marching through their Districts. Club members from our local District rode the trains wearing their End Polio shirts and accepted donations from commuters. They aimed to make this ‘the end of the line for Polio.’ Bribie Rotary celebrated by holding a High Tea and Trivia night.
Most people know that Rotary International (RI) is one of the World’s leading charities. But they may not be aware that RI has just been awarded the highest rating possible for the twelfth year in a row by Charity Navigator, the leading independent charity evaluator. And I am sure the majority of people are aware that ending Polio is Rotary’s Number One priority and has been for the past 34 years.
In 1985, RI launched PolioPlus, the first and largest internationally coordinated private-sector support of a public health initiative. In 1988, when polio was endemic in 125 countries and paralysed 350 000 children every year, RI became a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Since then Rotary, along with its partners, has worked to eliminate Polio and has had a 99.9% success rate.
The last mile is proving to be the hardest but if we stop our efforts now, within ten years we could see as many as 200,000 new cases each year, around the world. This means that children everywhere remain at risk until polio is eradicated. My article in the 16 August edition of The Bribie Islander talked about the countries where the virus is still endemic and the difficulties in making sure every child is vaccinated.
I asked that we stop being complacent and ensure we keep going until every child is vaccinated. So today, I am going to tell you about a not so well-known fact – that is, that polio survivors suffer from Post-Polio Sequelae/ Syndrome in later life. Post-Polio Sequelae (PPS), also known as Post-Polio Syndrome, and The Late Effects of Poliomyelitis, are the unexpected and often disabling symptoms that occur about 35 years after the poliovirus attack in 75% of the paralytic and 40% of ‘’non-paralytic’’ polio survivors.
Symptoms include overwhelming fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle, and joint pain, sleep disorders, heightened sensitivity to anesthesia, cold and pain, as well as difficulty swallowing and breathing. According to Dr. Richard L. Bruno, the world’s leading expert on PPS, the condition is caused by decades of ‘overuse abuse.’ The poliovirus damaged 95% of the brain stem and spinal cord motor neurons, killing at least 50%.
Virtually every muscle in the body is affected by polio, as are brain activating neurons that keep the brain awake and focus attention. Although damaged, the remaining neurons compensate by sending out ‘sprouts,’ like extra telephone lines, to activate muscles that were orphaned when their neurons were killed.
These over sprouted, poliovirus damaged neurons are now failing and dying from overuse, causing muscle weakness and fatigue. There are approximately 20 million polio survivors worldwide and for the past 30 years, Dr. Bruno has studied and treated over 6,000 PPS patients.
The existence of PPS has also been verified by articles in numerous medical journals. My friend and fellow Rotarian, Bill Peacock is a Polio survivor and now a victim of PPS. Like Bill, many Polio survivors, believe they are part of the End Polio solution and work tirelessly for the campaign so that others will not suffer what they have suffered.
The existence of PPS means that if a child is diagnosed with polio today and is lucky to survive the initial attack, there is every likelihood they will be wheelchairbound and totally dependent in later life. We have come such a long way in the campaign but Rotary is not good at publicising its achievements. As Bill Gates said, ‘The world’s progress in fighting polio might be one of the best-kept secrets in global health.’
So we now want our local community to know that Bribie Rotary will be boasting about our work and contributions towards Ending Polio; and we will boast about the help we receive via donations, attendance at events, and the returns from the Rotary Markets. These are all so much appreciated.
YES – the simple act of buying a sausage sandwich or a raffle ticket will help eradicate this distressing disease! Certainly something worth thinking about the next time you pass the Rotary Van at the Markets, on the second Sunday of every month. And, maybe, a good excuse to buy that second sausage or another raffle ticket!