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It is becoming quite common to overhear parents saying that their children need not be vaccinated against polio. The facts are, that polio can spread worldwide very quickly if it is not controlled properly, as was the case in the 1940’s and 50’s.

This current week has been declared as World Polio Week by Rotary International, and the Rotary Club of Kapiti has joined in this initiative by raising funds to assist this important call.

Speaking to the Rotary Club recently, Dr Ken Milne provided some relevant facts to emphasise the need to eradicate this disease from the planet.

“At its peak in the 1940’s and 1950’s, polio killed over half a million people worldwide every year. Many schools in New Zealand were closed due to fears that the disease would spread even further. New Zealand families were affected, and lost loved-ones, or experienced crippling effects for life. The majority of cases were amongst children” said Dr Milne.

The development of vaccines has played a major role in reducing the impact of polio. New Zealand is polio free at this time, but is still endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. In May of this year the World health Organisation (WHO) declared that the spread of polio was an international public health emergency which could unravel the nearly three-decade effort to eradicate the crippling and life-threatening disease. There have also been outbreaks in at least 10 Asian, African, and middle-eastern countries. Young children are most at risk.

‘Across New Zealand, over 200 Rotary Clubs and Rotarians are raising money to fight this challenge. Of particular note, is that for every dollar the Rotary movement raises, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (of Microsoft fame), will match this with another two dollars up to $35 Million. We do not want to learn of more cases of polio, and the community must be made aware of the risks associated with this awful disease. Parents must safeguard through vaccination as advised by the medical profession, and every dollar that we raise here in our community, will be put to significant use in the combat against polio, both here and worldwide’, said Dr Milne.


Photo Caption: Dr Ken Milne addresses the Rotary Club of Kapiti on the risks of polio worldwide.

Polio Virus - A threat to children's health

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