Posted by Carl Gerhardt on Nov 07, 2017
On 11/07/2017, Mike Berger from the Lake Conroe Rotary Club spoke to the Magnolia Rotary Club membership about the status of Polio in the world. Pictured above is Kelly McDonald (peeking over the banner) and Mike Berger holding up a banner (that Mike got while in India) advertising the National Immunization Day (NID) that occurs in India every year because of the efforts by the International Rotary Club to reduce Polio. Today, India is Polio free.
Mike told everyone that Polio is a debilitating disease that attacks a persons muscles and usually the muscles in the lower extremities. It causes those muscle to shorten up drastically making it difficult if not impossible to walk if it affects the leg muscles. Also, Polio can not be cured once you get it. Their are some operations that can be done to loosen up some of the muscles but the disease can't be cured. In addition, people who have had only a mild case of Polio in their youth, can later get "Post Polio Syndrome" in the later years of life.
Mike told everyone that Polio is a virus and is spread by oral-fecal contamination which is why it is dangerous to swim in polluted waters. Although the Unites States has been Polio free since 1979, there are still 13 active cases of Polio in the world and all of those cases are in Afganistan and Pakistan where the local people do not trust American Polio vaccine and believe that it will poison them or make them sterile. There are efforts underway to try and overcome this distrust but it is not as easy as it sounds. However, the Rotary club is trusted more than any government so there is still hope to solve this last problem to fully eradicating Polio.
Mike also told us about a man (Paul Alexander) who has lived in an Iron Lung since 1952 and is still alive today. The majority of the younger generation has never seen or heard of an Iron Lung but there were many of them when Rotary International started the effort to eradicate Polio in 1988 and there were 350,000 cases of Polio in the world. Mike told everyone that the Rotary efforts to eradicate Polio has saved an estimated 16 million people from getting Polio. Mike also told the group that if the journey to eradicate Polio was compared to the distant in one mile, we would be only 2.35" away from eradicating Polio. For a country to be declared "Polio Free", they must not have a new case of Polio for three years.
Mike then told everone that the United States CDC will jump into immediate action to gather DNA from any new case of Polio that pops up so that they can attempt to determine where the new outbreak came from so that efforts can be started to stop the outbreak.
Another story that Mike related to the group is that the killing of Ben Laden slowed the efforts to eradicate Polio. This is because Ben Laden was located through the doctor that came to his residence. Therefore, many tribal people in Afganistan and Pakistan told everyone that the location of their families would be shared with the authorities should they get the vaccine.
Mike also told everyone of the time he spent in India where everyone who got immunized had the nail on their pinky fingure colored purple. Mike did this to his pinky to help in communicating why he was there. In India, there is a national day of immunization or "National Immunization Day (NID)" where there is a national effort to make sure everyone gets the Polio vaccine.
The last thing that Mike told us was that he will match any Rotarian donation to the Polio effort up to $500. Contact him if you are interested.
A photo of an Indian girl with her pinky finger painted is shown below: