The Rotary Club vs. polio

The Rotary Club vs. polio

April 10th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Do you remember, not many decades ago, when epidemics of the dreaded disease of poliomyelitis, earlier widely known as "infantile paralysis," used to frighten children and their families throughout the United States -- and the world -- every year?

There were epidemics of the terrible, paralyzing, and often fatal, disease.

You may recall that in some years now long past, in Chattanooga and many other cities, schools were closed in "polio season" in attempts to minimize the spread of the feared disease.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been one of the countless polio sufferers when he was a child, surviving but being crippled. He later helped bring attention to the disease and the efforts to fight it.

Well, fortunately, the United States and most of the rest of the world are now generally "safe" from polio, because effective anti-polio vaccines were developed -- through separate methods -- by Jonas Edward Salk and Albert Bruce Sabin.

The Rotary Club, internationally and locally, dedicated itself to promoting massive anti-polio inoculations. Wonderful results have almost eradicated the feared disease in most parts of the world.

We were reminded of the good anti-polio news recently when the national Rotarian magazine featured a picture of Chattanooga's John F. Germ, a former local Rotary Club president and a national Rotary Foundation trustee. He was being honored in connection with the announcement that Rotary International had met the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's $200 million match in funding the world-wide fight against polio.

"We'll celebrate this milestone, but it doesn't mean we'll stop raising money or spreading the word about polio eradication," Germ said. "We can't stop until our entire world is certified polio free."

That's certainly a worthy goal -- on which amazing progress has been made.