World Polio Day is Thursday, October 24, and the Rotary Club of Powell River is organizing a fundraising potluck the following week to contribute to Rotary International’s ongoing effort to eradicate polio worldwide.
“This is a different fundraiser than usual,” said Rotary Club member Jan Gisborne. “We are having a big community potluck, where everyone will bring a dish to share, their own beverages, and a donation for the End Polio Now campaign. There will be an update on the campaign and a short video, but we hope people will come to enjoy a nice dinner with other members of the community.”
The potluck will take place at the ARC Community Event Centre, 7055 Alberni Street, at 6 pm on Wednesday, October 30. Gisborne recommends a minimum donation of $25. Depending on the number of people who attend, approximately $5 of each donation will be used to cover the venue costs, and the balance will be donated to Rotary International for a tax receipt in the donor’s name.
“Every dollar we raise will be matched two to one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” said Gisborne. “That means if we raise $1,000 after expenses, the polio campaign will receive $3,000. And with this campaign, all the money goes toward polio vaccines and delivery.”
Poliomyelitis, more commonly referred to as polio, is a highly contagious disease that mostly affects children. Severe cases affect one in 200 sufferers and attack the central nervous system, causing paralysis up to and including death as breathing muscles become immobilized.
Polio cannot be treated, but can be prevented with vaccination. Oral vaccines require between three and eight doses to provide full immunity, depending on local conditions. Wild polio virus has only been reported in Afghanistan and Pakistan so far this year, with 88 total cases between the two countries. That number is a significant increase over 2018, when only 33 cases were reported.
“When Rotary’s polio campaign started in 1985, there were over 350,000 cases of wild polio virus reported each year,” said Gisborne. “We are so close to eradicating polio, but to complete the job, we need to make sure every child is vaccinated to full immunity.”
Gisborne cautioned that polio is not to be taken lightly.
“The only prevention is vaccination, and the virus is only a plane ride away in our modern world,” she said. “It wasn’t that long ago that polio outbreaks happened in North America. There are people here in Powell River who had polio as children, and who now have developed post-polio syndrome. They can go from minor weakness to having to use a wheelchair in a short space of time. Polio is not in the past, and until it is, we have to keep working to eradicate it. As a health official in India once said, the alternative is unthinkable.”
Anyone wishing to attend the potluck is encouraged to stop by the Peak office, Unit F 4493 Marine Avenue, to add their dish to the signup sheet.