Today Newton-Conover Rotarian Sylvia Ray, life-long journalist and editor of the Observer News Enterprise, presented a program about the Hickory area polio epidemic and the 54 hour construction of the Hickory Emergency Infantile Paralysis Hospital in 1944. The swift completion of the facility and the effectiveness of treatments received by patients became known as the “Miracle of Hickory.” One day after the Allies hit the beach at Normandy, the first case of polio in Hickory was reported on June 7, 1944. Learn more about the Miracle of Hickory at www.ourstate.com/hickory-polio-epidemic.
Also speaking to the club was Teresa Biggs (R), CVCC Foundation Executive and Rotary District 7670 Rotaract Chairperson who introduced Hickory Rotarians to the Purple Pinkie Project. Joining Teresa was CVCC student, Mandy Jolly (L), who created and showed a three-minute film that was designed to allow club members to step back in time and view images of of the polio epidemic and how the disease affected those unfortunate enough to be afflicted with it.
The Purple Pinkie Project fundraiser supports Rotary International’s Polio Plus efforts, part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), launched in 1988 with the goal of eradicating polio throughout the world. The GPEI has the support of national governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and key partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Why is it called Purple Pinkie? When a child is vaccinated, a purple stamp is put on their little finger. So each Purple Pinkie represents another step toward the eradication of polio worldwide. The PPP has been successfully duplicated by Rotary clubs all over the world as a child’s purple pinkie has become a symbol of Rotary’s fight to end polio.
According to WHO, “Poliomyelitis (Polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs.”
Polio, although incurable, is easily preventable. A child can be vaccinated for less than a dollar (US). The Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) is administered by giving each child two drops of the vaccine. Rotarians have helped immunize more than 2 billion children against polio in 122 countries. For as little as $0.60 (US), a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life.
A few facts about Polio from the World Health Organization:
- Polio (Poliomyelitis) mainly affects children under five years of age.
- One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
- Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 223 reported cases in 2012. The reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease.
- In 2013, only three countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan) remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988. In October 2013 an outbreak in Syria, which had been polio free since 1999, was reported.
- As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.
- In most countries, the global effort has expanded capacities to tackle other infectious diseases by building effective surveillance and immunization systems.
After more than 25 years, Rotary and its partners are “this close” to ending polio. With your help and support of projects like the Purple Pinkie Project, polio may one day be a memory rather than a threat.