World Polio Day 2013

| 24/10/2013

Polio is a highly infectious disease which causes paralysis and is sometimes fatal. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as US 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. After an international investment of more than US$9 billion and the successful engagement of over 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, polio could be the first human disease of the 21st century to be eradicated.

The message to world leaders is clear: support the final push to achieve eradication now while the goal has never been closer, or face the potential consequences of a new polio pandemic that could disable millions of children within a decade.

Since 1985, Rotary has contributed nearly $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. The disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan — although other countries remain at risk for imported cases.

The last cases identified in the Caribbean area were in Haiti/Dominican Republic in 1991. Before a Caribbean vaccination drive, estimated deaths in Latin America/Caribbean in the 1970s totalled around 15,000 cases and 1,750 deaths per annum. Here in the Cayman Islands, the last recorded cases were in 1957 and we have remained polio-free ever since thanks to a vaccination programme for all children which continues today. It is vitally important that all children receive the vaccine to prevent the re-introduction of the disease into the Islands and also to protect those children should they be exposed to the disease in another country.

In an extraordinary gesture of support, every $1 that Rotary raises between now & 2017 will become $3 thanks to being matched 2 for 1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In Cayman, the four Rotary clubs & two Rotaract clubs are working to raise funds for Rotary’s ”End Polio Now” campaign, which features world celebrities, local icons and ordinary persons alike all showing that we are “This Close” to eliminating polio. This World Polio Day October 24th, please join with concerned Rotarians and help to eradicate polio in our lifetime. With global travel nowadays, it can be easily transmitted across national borders, or across the globe, as has already happened with wild outbreaks in several world areas. 

Poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, which enters the human body through the mouth. The virus multiplies in the gastrointestinal tract, spreads to different parts of the body and then enters the blood stream causing flu like symptoms. A small percentage of the virus may enter mainly the brainstem and spinal cord and causes damage to the nerve cells, resulting in a condition called Paralytic polio, with early symptoms of high fever, headaches, muscle weakness and muscle pains, back and neck pains. Paralysis (loss of muscle function) may occur in chest and abdomen causing difficulties in breathing. Paralysis in one leg is common but some victims suffer from quadriplegia (all four limbs affected). Paralyses in some cases are just temporary, while in a few it is permanent. Not all persons infected by the virus will have polio.

Two polio stories from Cayman Brac

Mr McNeil Hurlston: I was born on the 22nd January 1929 in Spot Bay but I live now in my own house at The Rock. I contracted polio when I was about 8 months old.  I had a high fever but there were no hospitals or doctors on island so my parents and the older folks did the best for me. I walked with a limp because my left leg was affected but I had many friends at school and no one tried to bully me. Of course I was big man and very strong and enjoyed boyhood days like nothing was wrong. (Pictured left with caregiver Lendell Moore Scott)

I left school when I was about 16 years old and did gardener work before going to sea. At the age of about 20 years I became an able-bodied seaman aboard the Kirkconnell Ships. I never missed a good time at every port. After many years at sea, I took-upa security guard post at the Airport in the early 1980’s and held that position for 22 years. I was never sick or absent from my duty and drove to work everyday.

Many people visit me now at home so I don’t feel neglected or alone. I was doing really well a few years ago but now my voice is weak, sight not so good but I can still smile and sing. I have my life partner to care for me and another beautiful caregiver. I am happy. My children and grandchildren are wonderful, happy and healthy. I know many people had polio, including the 32nd president of the United States Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR), who was paralyzed from the waist down and died at the age of 63. One German doctor who was aboard the ration ship, The Bristish- Man-O-War, told my father that I had infantile paralysis and I if I survive I will live for a long time, and so said so done.

Miss Ianthy Christian: I was born on October 17, 1929. I was about 2 or 3 years old when I began to experience high fever and severe pain in my legs. My first experience was ona bright summer day when my sisters and I went to the Spot Bay seaside to play. I was the smallest so they took special care of me and when I complained of pain they rushed me home. My parents and neighbours did what they knew best and with some medicines from the commissioner and dispenser, Mr Aston Rutty, I got some relief but my left leg was paralyzed. (Pictured left with Brac Rotary President Dhal Seeram)

I was not terribly affected by this disability and I moved quickly and energetically like the other girls. I loved school and had many great friends. I was petite and well dressed at all times and I still maintain these features today. One of my girl friends had polio with paralysis of the same left leg and she got married and left the island. She has many children and grandchildren but I believed she passed away sometime ago.

I had many offers also from nice gentlemen who wanted to marry me and take me abroad to get treatment but I refused because I didn’t want to leave Cayman Brac and my family. I was never married but I am happy to be single. I always have God and my family who love me and give the support I need. My bigger sister, Ms Faith, who is 95 years old, would walk over to see me sometimes.

I am well organized; I have a walker, a wheel chair and other aids to help me move around to do my daily chores. There is more pressure on the good leg so I have to rest as often as is needed to prevent any accidental falls. I eat, sleep and see well and I don’t blame anyone for giving me polio. For me this is normal and I feel I am going to live long and healthy until the Maker says I have to go.

Learn more about the End Polio programme here.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Would the money not be better spent on malaria nets as that is a far more damaging disease?