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October 21, 2009 > Rotary Club takes steps to 'End Polio Now!'

Rotary Club takes steps to 'End Polio Now!'

By Shavon Walker
Photos By Shavon Walker

Polio, once an unstoppable killer around the globe, has met another defeat at the hands of Lee Denlinger and the Fremont-Union City-Newark Sunset Rotary Club. To commend their efforts to eliminate this disease, Union City declared October 28 as "End Polio Now!" Day in Union City.

The proclamation is the kickoff to the fundraising portion of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Challenge Grants. The event was commemorated with a plaque from the city and a Certificate of Recognition presented by Michelle Thomas on Senator Ellen Corbett's behalf. FUN Sunset Rotary's former president Elaine Wong-Bigel and current president Denlinger jointly accepted the awards.

Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, can cause acute flaccid paralysis in roughly one percent of its victims. This causes the limbs to become limp and disfigured. In severe cases, it can attack the motor neurons in the brain stem and can result in breathing difficulties or even death. The virus itself can be transmitted by poor or careless hygiene.

Jonas Salk created the original injectable polio vaccine in 1954. He eventually used it to immunize schoolchildren. Dr. Salk's birthday was chosen as the day for "End Polio Now!" Day. Today's oral version of the polio vaccine, created by Dr. Albert Sabin, has enabled many countries to join the fight against polio.

In 1988, the Rotary Club created the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Rotary International, along with other organizations such as UNICEF and The World Health Organization, partnered with the World Health Assembly to eliminate polio around the world. By 1991, the last indigenous case of polio in the Americas was documented; by 1994, the entire Western Hemisphere was declared polio-free. As of this year, only four countries have polio as an endemic disease: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Challenge Grants gave the Rotary Foundation $100M in 2007 and an additional $255M in 2009, with the caveat Rotarians must raise $200M in matching funds by June 30, 2012. As of October, Rotarians have raised $73M. The Fremont-Union City-Newark branch is asking the community for their support to reach the Rotary Foundation's goal.

For more details, contact Lee Denlinger at

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