Elisa King, guest speaker at Tuesday’s Cleveland Rotary Club luncheon, explained Rotary International’s assistance in this worldwide effort.
King, and Cleveland Rotary member David Carroll, have been involved in Rotary’s National Immunization Day events for several years. Both attended an NID in India in 2009. King has returned the past two years, along with her two daughters, and plans to go again during the coming year.
“In 1985, there were 1,000 new cases of polio every week in India,” she said. “In 2011, there was only one case.”
King said the goal of NIDs is to eradicate polio worldwide. Once a common and dreaded disease around the world, its prevalence is now down to 1 percent. Much of this success is due to Rotary International’s effort to provide the polio vaccine around the world.
Program chairman Norm Fontana introduced Tuesday’s guest speaker. “We’re this close to eradicating polio,” he said as he held up two fingers, almost touching them together.
King, who grew up in South Africa, has worked in trauma units around the world.
“It’s an amazing task Rotary has achieved,” she said of the NIDs which have almost eliminated polio in India. Rotary International became involved in the effort to eliminate polio in 1980, and the results have been amazing, she added.
She said polio has been around for centuries, adding it was reported on ancient stone carvings in Egypt. “At the start of the 20th century, polio was about iron lungs, crippling, death and dread,” she said.
That was before the first polio vaccine was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in the early 1950s.
“The United States reported its last case of polio in 1991, and the nation was reportedly polio-free in 1994,” King said. “But despite that accomplishment, and the miracles of modern medicine, several countries around the world still have the disease.
“The symptoms are much like influenza, but much more severe,” King told the Kiwanians. “The word polio once struck a chord of fear and dread across the U.S.”
King said it is not easy for a nation to be declared polio-free, explaining such a declaration requires three consecutive years without the report of a single case of polio.
She explained that the NIDs in India are three-day events, with communitywide clinics on the first day and door-to-door visits through the community over the following two days. She added that approximately 600 children are vaccinated each day.
In India, during the NIDs, King said 74 million children have been vaccinated with 35 million vials of the polio vaccine. King said there has been only one reported polio case in the past year, and none over the last nine months as India gets closer and closer to being polio-free.
She said the philosophy (of widespread immunization) is somewhat like the ministry of the late Mother Teresa. “Mother Teresa said, ‘I am not concerned about the masses. I began with one person. If I had not picked up that person, I may not have picked up the other 42,000. You have to start somewhere.”
King praised Rotary International for its contributions in the effort to eradicate polio. “You have paid for the future of a polio-free world, with your donations,” she said.
“Your money has given our children an opportunity (to live in a polio-free world),” King added. “Polio has a face, and we can make a difference for those faces.”
In other Rotary news:
n Interact Club members from Cleveland High and Cleveland Middle School attended Tuesday’s luncheon.
n Rotarian Ann McCoin presented a report on the recent decision of recipients for Rotary Foundation grants.
Organizations receiving a portion of the $27,000 in funding include Adult Education, the Boys & Girls Clubs, The Caring Place, Helping Paws, the Museum Center at Five Points, People for Care and Learning, new fountains on the Cleveland Greenway, Samaritan Place and Trousdale School.