It's World Polio Day, a great day to celebrate the birth of Dr. Jonas Salk, who led the team to develop the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, and to review our progress towards a polio-free world.
Before the first polio vaccines became available in 1955 (Salk vaccine) and 1961 (Sabin vaccine), there were about 13,000 to 20,000 cases of paralytic polio in the United States each year, but this quickly declined to fewer than 100 cases by the mid-1960s. The last documented cases in the United States occurred in 1979 among the Amish in Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Pennsylvania, an outbreak that left 10 people paralyzed.
As recently as 1988, more than 1,000 children worldwide were paralyzed by polio each day. Since then, the polio vaccine has also helped to reduce polio worldwide by 99%, but work still needs to be done in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, as they are the remaining polio endemic countries today.
Unfortunately, although the CDC states that "we are closer than we have ever been to eradicating polio," with fewer children being paralyzed by polio in the past year than every before (171), we are not on track to eradicate polio this year, even as their global partners make a final push to eradicate polio.
To draw attention to this once-in-a-generation opportunity, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative urges us all to join the world's biggest commercial put together by Rotary International. You can also take action, by writing to world leaders and downloading an action pack, to to help ensure a polio-free world.