Spencer Trask & Co., a privately held advanced technology development company, today announced it will join UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a sponsor of the 2016 World Polio Day event hosted by Rotary Internationalon October 24. This is the second year the company is sponsoring.
World Polio day is an opportunity for the 33,000 Rotary clubs around the world to focus on the eradication of polio. Rotary has been working on this international service project for decades with great success. A live stream of the event via www.endpolio.orgwill take begin at 6:00 p.m. ET from CDC headquarters in Atlanta, GA. Guests will include Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, celebrity ambassadors, polio survivors, and others. Spencer Trask & Co. Chairman Kevin Kimberlin has been personally committed to the eradication of polio since joining forces with renowned polio hero Dr. Jonas Salk in 1986.
From October 17 through 19, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the Ministry of Public Health have joined forces to conduct a massive polio immunization drive in Afghanistan. The nationwide effort focuses on immunizing children under the age of five. In addition, children ages two through five will receive de-worming tablets to help prevent worm infections that could potentially lead to other health conditions, such as anemia and malnourishment. More than 65,000 healthcare professionals are going door to door to deliver the vaccines and tablets. “Afghanistan is on track to stopping the transmission of polio and our focus is now on finding and vaccinating every child missed for any reason. Most of Afghanistan remains polio-free,” said public health minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz. “Everyone has a role to play in stopping this debilitating disease and ensuring that no more children are paralyzed by polio.”
Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have raised $99 million in the fight against polio in Nigeria, according to a Rotary district governor. The governor made the announcement to a group of journalists over the weekend, adding that the two organizations remain committed to tackling polio, especially after several cases were reported in the African Nation in recent months. In 2015, the World Health Organization declared Nigeria polio free, however now it joins Afghanistan and Pakistan, as the only countries in the world with known polio cases.
Keira Cromwell doesn’t let her disability get in the way of achieving her dreams. The 10-year-old actress contracted polio while living in Vietnam. Today she resides in St. Louis, Missouri, with her family, and is active in the city’s theater community. Recently she was cast as Chip the teacup in the local production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Although the fifth grader does use a wheelchair, costume designers cleverly fashioned it into a teacart and created a unique costume for the budding actress. The performance is put on by Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, an organization that has helped thousands of kids with disabilities. Cromwell is one of 33 Variety kids participating in the production.
One park in Middlesbrough, a town in northeastern England, is taking a unique approach when it comes to the battle against polio. Stewart Park has launched a campaign entitled Purple 4 Polio that will result in the planting of 5,000 purple crocuses in the park. Several elementary schools and members of the nonprofit Friends of Stewart Park have joined forces with the Rotary Club of Cleveland to plant the flowering plants, which are a member of the iris family. In addition, Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland have partnered with the Royal Horticultural Society to raise polio awareness by planting six million purple crocus in the United Kingdom. “We felt that Stewart Park would be the perfect backdrop for a mass crocus planting scheme, ensuring a visible reminder of Rotary’s commitment for many years to come,” says John Cundall of the Rotary Club of Cleveland.
In West Africa’s Lake Chad, health officials have launched an ambitious drive to vaccinate 41 million children in the area. Approximately 39,000 health workers have been sent to neighboring areas, including Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon, to take on the mass endeavor, according to UNICEF. In addition to administering polio vaccinations, workers will be helping children exhibiting signs of malnutrition. Due to fighting between the Islamist group Boko Haram and the Nigerian army, more than 2.6 million people were displaced and were unable to receive adequate healthcare and nourishment. “The re-emergence of polio after two years with no recorded cases is a huge concern in an area already in crisis,” says UNICEF regional director Manuel Fontaine. “We must not allow polio to spread.”
Global health officials agree that eradicating polio isn’t a “done deal.” In fact, in 1999 the world was on track to defeat polio in its entirety by 2000, but due to commercial concerns at the time, namely vaccination manufacturers decreasing production for fear that no one would buy it after 2000, polio remains a leading concern with cases still prevalent in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. During the 2016 World Health Summit, held in Berlin over the weekend, officials expressed their concern that we as a world may never fully eradicate polio unless we learn from our mistakes and stay focused. “We need to learn the lessons from polio so we know how and when to work in these insecure areas,” says Matshidiso R. Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa. “And we need to make sure eradicating polio isn’t just a commitment of a country’s health minister, but also of its finance minister.”
Hundreds of community members gathered for the 12th annual Taste of the Abingtons, a fundraiser held by the Rotary Club of the Abingtons in Clark Summit, Pennsylvania. The annual event features food and wine from local producers, and the money raised will go toward funding research and other efforts in the fight to end polio worldwide. (Tickets were $35 per person.) The club, which is 60 members strong, also holds an annual Salvation Army red kettle drive during the winter holidays and a fireworks display on July 4.
Over the past several months, cases of a rare polio-like illness have been diagnosed in children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Called acute flaccid myelitis, the disease affects the nervous system, in particular the spinal cord, and is believed to be linked to viral infections, although more research is necessary. Symptoms include limb weakness, loss of muscle tone, and respiratory failure in severe cases. In the first half of 2016, the CDC recorded 32 cases in 17 states and the median age of those affected is 7 years old. The exact cause of acute flaccid myelitis is unknown, although researchers noted that cases in 2014 coincided with an enterovirus (EV-D68) outbreak that occurred nationwide. The CDC has confirmed that it has sent out several health alerts to states about the disease.
The people of Barang Tehsil of Bajaur Agency, an agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, have agreed to get their children vaccinated against polio. The group agreed to allowing the immunizations after being assured by community leaders that damaged roads in the area would be repaired. According to one local health official, residents used the anti-polio drive as leverage against the local government after it failed to provide improved roadways in the region.