World Polio Day was observed this past Thursday, Oct. 24.
To help in the world-wide effort to eradicate polio, high school students from Chase County’s Interact Club and Imperial Rotarians conducted the second annual Purple Pinkie Project.
It costs just 66 cents to immunize a child for life against polio. When children receive the vaccine, their pinkie finger is painted purple to show they’ve been treated.
Not all the money raised this past Thursday for PolioPlus has been turned in and counted, but so far more than $900 has been tallied.
That will make a difference in the lives of over 1,365 children, children local residents will never see, but children whose lives are freed from the threat of polio, said Imperial Rotarian Bill Bryan.
The worst epidemic of polio in the nation’s history occurred in 1952. That year, 57,628 cases were reported, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. By the mid to late ‘50s, two American physicians, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, working feverishly and independently of each other, had successively developed vaccines for this crippling and deadly disease.
After years of work, research and development, neither Salk nor Sabin patented their vaccines. They gave it away—it was too precious for profit and there has not been a reported case of paralytic poliomyelitis in the United States since 1979.
The past two decades have witnessed tremendous progress toward the eradication of polio. In 1988, when the World Health Assembly established the goal of eradicating the disease and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched, wild poliovirus was endemic in 125 countries, and about 350,000 people, primarily young children, were paralyzed by polio annually.
Since then, through the combined immunization campaigns of the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF, Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the number of polio cases globally has been reduced by more than 99 percent, saving more than 10 million children from paralysis.
Polio remains endemic in just three countries—Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan— and fewer than 250 cases were reported in 2012, compared to 650 cases in 2011.