Poliomyelitis, often called polio, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus.  Once known as Infantile Paralysis, the term "poliomyelitis" is used to identify the disease caused by any of the three types of poliovirus. 
Poliomyelitis has existed for thousands of years, with depictions of the disease in ancient art.  The virus that causes it was first identified in 1908.  In the 20th century it became one of the most worrying childhood diseases…and the most debilitating.  It is hoped that vaccination efforts, monitoring, and early detection of cases will result in global eradication of the disease by 2018.

The virus enters the central nervous system in about 1% of infections. About one to five in 1000 cases progress to paralytic disease in which the muscles become weak, floppy and poorly controlled, and, finally, completely paralyzed; this condition is known as acute flaccid paralysis.  Depending on the site of paralysis, paralytic poliomyelitis is classified as spinal, bulbar, or bulbo-spinal, and represents approximately 19% of all cases.
Three serotypes of poliovirus have been identified—poliovirus type 1 (PV1), type 2 (PV2), and type 3 (PV3).  All three are extremely virulent and produce the same disease symptoms.  PV1 is the most commonly encountered form, and the one most closely associated with paralysis.  

Verification:  A laboratory diagnosis is usually made based on recovery of poliovirus from a stool sample or a swab of the pharynx.  If poliovirus is isolated from a patient experiencing acute flaccid paralysis, it is further tested through oligonucleotide mapping (genetic fingerprinting).  It is important to determine the source of the virus because for each reported case of paralytic polio caused by wild poliovirus, there is an estimated 200 to 3,000 other contagious asymptomatic carriers exist.

Two types of vaccine are used throughout the world to combat polio.  The first US inactivated virus vaccine was developed in 1952 by Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh, and announced to the world on 12 April 1955. Subsequently, Albert Sabin developed a live, oral polio vaccine (OPV), licensed in 1962, the only polio vaccine used worldwide. 

Because OPV is inexpensive, easy to administer, and produces excellent immunity in the intestine (which helps prevent infection with wild virus in areas where it is endemic), it has been the vaccine of choice for controlling poliomyelitis in many countries.  On very rare occasions (about one case per 750,000 vaccine recipients), the attenuated virus in OPV reverts into a form that can paralyze. Most industrialized countries have switched to IPV, which cannot revert, either as the sole vaccine against poliomyelitis or in combination with oral polio vaccine.

The number of polio cases were so vast they were immeasurable in the 1940’s, with estimates between 500,000 to 600,000 per year.  It was clear the issue to eradicate the disease became one of distribution of the vaccine to all corners of the world.  Rotary, with its’ vast number and distribution of members, was the perfect distributor.

Rotary first entered its’ “War Against Polio” in 1979 with a grant to the Philippine’s followed by many other grants.  Nine years later, in 1988 with new alliances with WHO, UNESCO, and the US CDC, there remained about 360,000 cases annually…around 1,000 new cases every day.  Between 1945 and 1988, 43 years, the disease was reduced only about 1/3.  Since 1979, with Rotarians, the disease is close to being eradicated.

WE CAN NOT STOP NOW!  Your $26.50 contribution per club member is needed.  Please help by 1) having 100% participation in your Rotary club and receiving the 2 Ft. by 3 Ft. Polio Club Banner, 2) by developing a community fund-raising polio project, and 3) by joining our District 5790 Polio Society and receiving a unique polio pin and matching Paul Harris points with a $100 or more contribution specifically to the Polio Fund.