Polio, Rotary and Crocuses
We are in the midst of a pandemic and about seventy years ago we were in a different one. This was polio (full name poliomyelitis), which mainly affects children rather than adults, with its highly-transmittable virus causing permanent, partial or even total paralysis. The disease continued to been untreatable until the early 1950s when US scientist Dr Jonas Salk produced the first vaccine, which has continued to be improved upon since.
In the UK and other western countries vaccination soon proved to be effective and no cases have been reported since 1955. but across poor countries the situation improved only slowly. Then in 1985 Rotarians in the US decided to campaign to end the scourge of polio throughout the world by providing funds to help governments ensure that as many children as possible could be vaccinated. Soon Rotary clubs in other countries including the United Kingdom joined this endeavour. This produced spectacular results and the disease has been eliminated from all but two of the 125 countries in which it was raging during the middle of the last century. The help given was not just a matter of raising funds, Reading Rotary Club being one of the many that sent members overseas to help with vaccinating the children.
Work continues in Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to finally rid the world of this disease, which is why Rotary International have decided that each 24th of October should be designated World Polio Day. Funds are of course needed to complete this work and Rotary clubs have recently been planting crocuses to give publicity to the need.
Why crocuses? The variety that is planted produces light purple flowers with a white stripe, reminiscent of the purple dye that is put on the little finger of the children when they receive their jab. This autumn members of Reading Rotary Club have planted a “Rotary Wheel” of crocuses near to Christchurch footbridge and Reading Abbey Rotary Club have done the same in Caversham Court. When the crocuses are in flower next February, they will present a beautiful reminder of the need to finally rid the world of polio.
If you would like to help Rotary International “End Polio Now,” please visit website https://www.rotarygbi.org/our-causes/end-polio-now/ and give generously!
Tim Metcalfe, President of the Rotary Club of Reading, planting crocuses near Christchurch Footbridge.