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Unvaccinated children are at risk

Published June 30. 2011 05:01PM

In the United States and most developed countries, children are now routinely immunized with a vaccine to prevent polio. However, according to the United States Center for Disease Control, 10 percent of American children under the age of 3, about 1 million toddlers, have not been vaccinated against polio and are at risk of being infected by this paralyzing disease.

Rotary International began its battle against polio in 1985, by creating "PolioPlus", an immunization program to fight six diseases that strike children including diphtheria, pertussis(whooping cough), tetanus, measles, tuberculosis and polio. At that time polio existed in more than 125 countries in the world, more than 35,000 cases of polio were reported every year, and approximately 1,000 children infected by the crippling disease every day.

Today, only four countries are still not polio-free and worldwide cases of polio have been reduced to about 1,000 per year. Currently, there is no known cure for polio, so the best protection against the disease is through immunization.

Rotary is currently raising funds to purchase vaccine and organization immunization campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, portions of India, and Nigeria, the four remaining countries in the world that are not yet polio-free. The polio virus can be carried silently by individuals who show no symptoms of the disease. It is highly infectious and primarily strikes children under the age of 5. It can cause paralysis within hours, and there is no know cure.

If a polio-infected child or adult flies into a densely-populated area, like New York City, where an estimated 25,000 children are unvaccinated, America could again have an epidemic outbreak of polio as it did during the 1950's. As long as polio exists in other parts of the world, polio is only a plane ride away.

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