Close, This Close

Posted By Mark Jinkins


Do you remember polio? Highly infectious. Spread person to person. There is no cure. There is a vaccine. Polio is preventable with a vaccine!

An endemic, i.e., rapid spread of a disease, was unknown to polio before the 20th century.  Then an endemic in Europe and not long after in the United States. In the 1950s, the decade of my own birth, each year over half a million paralyzed or killed by polioevery year! Muscle weakness resulting in an inability or limited ability to move, most often in the legs but also above in the neck, arms, and diaphragm, onset to paralysis being a few hours or a few days. Quite a few die (15 to 30 percent of adults but less children die). Some “recover” then years later slowly that weakness crepes back. Once infected there is no specific treatment; no cure! In the 20th century polio became one of the most worrying childhood diseases

The vaccines began in the 1950s; in 1955 Salk injections and then shortly after  Sabin “oral” vaccine human trials.  My generation remembers mass immunizations around 1960 – for me the lines at our state university gymnasium where each received the vaccine (babies got a couple of drops from an eyedropper, but me on a sugar cube – Poppins “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”).  The younger generation seeing a person with a disability or pain and that the polio virus was the cause. The last U.S. endemic was 50 years ago, in 1979 across Amish communities in the Midwest that had no vaccine.

In the 1980s Rotary began the push against polio worldwide. The progress: 1988 the polio virus was approximately 350,0000 polio cases each year, but that’s still about 7000 a day. The most recent annual is now 22 cases last year (2017) – that number shows how close to End Polio Now.   Polio is on its way to join the only other disease eradicated in our history, smallpox!

Rotary: “We are very very close, but until every country is certified polio free and there are no more new cases of wild polio, there remains the real danger that it can come roaring back.”  “It is essential that we maintain the momentum for the complete eradication of polio in the world. ” The goal “a 100% polio-free world!” “We’re almost there.” “Let’s do our part to vanquish the virus.” Visit

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