Fight against polio continues

Lydia Whittaker has lived with polio since she was 3 months old.

Doctors who examined her as a baby did not recognise she had polio, thinking instead she had growth issues.

“The doctors in Puerto Rico couldn’t figure out why my left leg was drawing up and thought it was some sort of injury at birth as opposed to polio,” said Mrs. Whittaker, who is now in her 60s.

She was in her 30s before a doctor in Texas told her she had polio.

Polio is a contagious viral illness that, in its most severe form, causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death. In the United States, the last case of naturally occurring polio happened in 1979. Today, despite a concerted global eradication campaign, poliovirus continues to affect children and adults in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, but has been eradicated in 99 per cent of the world.

Despite pain and a slight limp, Mrs. Whittaker has never let polio slow her down. She is married and has three grown children, five grandchildren and is employed. Nevertheless, she said would not want anyone to have to experience the pain she has had throughout her life and she is pleased organisations such as Rotary Sunrise and Rotary International are helping ensure that polio is eradicated.

If Rotary raises $200 million dollars, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match the amount with $355 million in challenging grants. The resulting $555 million supports immunisation campaigns in developing countries where polio continues to infect and paralyse children.

“As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk, as polio is very contagious. So I am asking people who see the ‘End Polio Now’ donation boxes at post offices or at the Hollywood Theatre in Camana Bay, please drop your change in,” Mrs. Whittaker said. “Every little bit helps.”

Rotary Sunrise president Andrea Bryan said as a result of a massive, global vaccination campaign during the past 20 years, polio exists only in a few countries in Africa and Asia.

“Rotary has a mission to wipe out polio, but this goal can only be achieved with everyone’s help. All we are asking if for a small donation – your spare change,” Ms Bryan said.

In addition to boxes placed at post office and at the cinema, people can also contact any Rotary member for a donation box to be placed in their office.