Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a paralyzing and potentially deadly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of 5, and is caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can then attack the nervous system. Years after recovery, post­-polio syndrome may occur, with a slow development of muscle weakness similar to that which the person had during the initial infection.

Polio has been on the earth for thousands of years, with depictions disease in ancient art, such as in the carvings inside an ancient Egyptian pyramid, portraying a priest with a withered leg.

In the early 20th century, polio was one of the most feared diseases in the industrialized world. It paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children every year. Effective vaccines against polio were introduced by Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, in the 1950s and 60s. Polio was brought under control and practically eliminated as a public health problem in the United States and other countries. As of 1979, the United States was polio free; in 1988 the global polio eradication initiatives began. Since then more than 25 billion children have immunized, Thanks to the cooperation more than 200 countries, backed by an international investment of more than US$11 billion. The timeline of the history of polio may be found at www.polio.org, as well as www.endpolio.org.

Today, only two countries have not stopped polio. They are Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many factors contribute to their inability to eradicate this disease. Rotary international, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been largely responsible for the success of polio eradication in all the other countries. Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for more than 30 years. Our goal of ridding the world of this disease is closer than ever. As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we've reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent since our first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979.
We've helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. So far, Rotary has contributed more than $1.8 billion toward eradicating the disease worldwide. But it’s crucial to continue working to keep other countries polio­free. If all eradication efforts stopped today, within 10 years, polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year.

You, as Rotarians, are important to the world ­ Please continue to fight for the eradication of polio! As a Polio Survivor, living with the results of this terrible disease we must not quit, never give up and let’s finish the job…I know we can do this, the great country of India is now Polio free.