In celebration of World Rotary Day and the 108th anniversary of Rotary International, Rotary Club of New Port Richey members spent several hours outside a local Publix educating patrons on the crippling effects of polio.
Polio is caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract and spreads through person-to-person contact with the stool of an infected person and oral or nasal secretions. Most people infected with the polio virus have no symptoms.
For the less than 1 percent who develop paralysis, however, it may result in permanent disability and even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Polio has no cure and vaccination is the best means of protection and to stop the disease from spreading.
Since its inception, Rotary International has helped educate the public on the effects of polio and importance of vaccines. According the CDC, in the late 1940s to the early 1950s in the United States alone, polio crippled about 35,000 people yearly. The injectable polio vaccine was introduced in 1955 and the oral form in and by 1979 the country was considered polio free.
Purple Pinkie Day, which was recently honored by Rotary clubs in Pasco, Pinellas, Hernando and Citrus counties, is a campaign through which Rotary International, by way of its districts and clubs worldwide, raise money for End Polio Now, a campaign led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
New Port Richey Rotarians set up a display and spent several hours in front of the Publix in Southgate Shopping Center on Saturday, Feb. 23 painting purple the pinkies of anyone who stopped by their display. Patrons were asked to make a donation to the polio fund and were given pamphlets about polio and the vaccine.
Children under the age of 5 are at greatest risk for polio, especially in developing countries, but polio is easy to prevent with a vaccination that costs just pennies. When a child is vaccinated in a foreign country, their pinkie finger is painted purple, which identifies them as having received the vaccine.
“Polio used to be a worldwide problem,” said Craig McCart, the president of the New Port Richey Rotary Club. “It’s still a worldwide problem with the way that people travel now. If the people in polio endemic countries travel, they could spread polio to places where it’s already been eradicated.”
The spread of polio has never stopped in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. In 2012, India went an entire year without a recorded case of polio and was taken off the polio endemic list. Rotary also surpassed its $200 Million Challenge fundraising goal last year five months earlier than planned.
According to the CDC, there are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: inactivated polio vaccine and the oral form, which uses a life polio virus.
IPV, used in the United States since 2000, is given as an injection in a leg or arm muscle, depending on the patient’s age. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children. Children get four doses of IPV, one each at 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months, and booster dose at 4 to 6 years.
The oral vaccine has not been used in the United States since 2000 because of concerns about a rare complication called vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis. It is still used in many other countries, in part because the World Health Organization considers it more effective in preventing polio than IPV.
The New Port Richey Rotary Club meets every Wednesday at noon at the Spartan Manor in New Port Richey.