Rotary, through its End Polio Now campaign, has done a lot of work to rid the world of polio forever. It has been partnered in this campaign by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
This campaign has been so successful that as of November 2018 only three countries still have cases of polio. These are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Yet, according to Bill Gates, “The world’s progress in fighting polio might be one of the best-kept secrets in global health.”
The complete end of polio, forever, would make history. This would be an extremely significant public health achievement. Polio would become only the second human disease, after smallpox, to be completely eliminated from the world.
As well as making history, the end of polio would improve lives worldwide. It would significantly reduce physical disability rates worldwide, particularly rates of paralysis. It would improve child health, in general, worldwide, since polio vaccination campaigns also monitor children for other health problems such as measles, which are addressed sooner as a result. A polio free world would also save the global economy up to 50 billion dollars within the next 20 years- money which could be spent on caring for people with other disabilities as well as many other good and very important causes.
A complete end to polio, worldwide, forever, would be a dream come true for me, personally, as a polio survivor. I would like to see Rotary and its partners working to support polio survivors with post-polio syndrome once polio is completely eradicated.
Post-polio syndrome is a little-known condition which affects 70-80 per cent of polio survivors. I am personally affected by this condition, and I feel that awareness of it desperately needs to be raised so that survivors can receive appropriate support.
In post-polio syndrome, some symptoms of polio return or get worse many years, even decades, after the original polio infection.
The symptoms of post-polio syndrome develop gradually, but get worse slowly.
They most commonly include fatigue- including muscle fatigue and mental fatigue, muscle weakness and muscle and joint pain.
The combination of these three can lead to several associated symptoms. People with post-polio syndrome can gain weight due to being less physically active, and in some cases, they can become obese.
Walking can become difficult, and many people with post-polio syndrome will need a walking aid at some point. Some may eventually need to use a wheelchair.
Post-polio syndrome makes the breathing muscles weaker. This can lead to shortness of breath, sleep apnoea, and an increased risk of chest infections.
Swallowing may become difficult, and people may experience changes to their voice and speech.
Some people with post-polio syndrome become very sensitive to cold temperatures or a sudden drop in temperature, because of poor blood supply.
Post-polio syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions. There are, so far, no specific tests for it.
There is currently no cure for post-polio syndrome. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life.
A polio free world may allow diagnosis of post-polio syndrome to become easier, when increased funding goes into it. Maybe, one day, a cure could even be found.
This seems like another very important reason to work towards a polio free world.