Opinion: A setback in polio fight

The fight to eradicate polio is not just against a disease, it's against ignorance

The pronouncement this week from the World Health Organization that the spread of polio is an “international health emergency” must come as blow to local Rotarians.

But rather than deter them, it will likely steel their resolve. They have fought too long and too hard to allow such an insidious disease to regain a foothold.

Their challenge, however, is that they are not just fighting an illness, they are fighting ignorance.

Polio, by any measure, is a horrible disease. It usually strikes the young. Those it does not kill, it leaves crippled or horribly contorted – both can be a death sentence in the Third World countries where the disease persists.

Even those who escape death or disability can face complications years later in life.

For most of us, polio is a disease of the past; a memory like typhus, or cholera.

But it wasn’t that long ago that the threat of polio gripped this country. It was a time when the slightest hint of the disease closed schools and cancelled public events. Parents shuttered their children indoors for fear they might contract the deadly illness.

It wasn’t until Jonas Salk introduced the first vaccine in 1951 that North America began to see an ebb in the disease.

Soon, through extensive education – and a lot of money – that success was spread internationally. It was only a few years ago that the Rotary Club International, thanks to a massive donation by the Gates Foundation, was predicting the worldwide eradication of the disease in our lifetime.

But ignorance is a powerful force.

Rather than welcome a tool that could protect their children, the ignorant, angry and fanatical see some devious threat. In countries like Pakistan and Sudan aid workers risk their own lives to vaccinate the innocent.

It’s a reminder that while we can vaccinate against a disease, an inoculation against idiocy is still a long way off.

Just Posted

New real-time location technology coming soon to Fraser Valley buses

Waiting riders will be able to see location of their bus using their phones

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Sept. 16 to 22

Assault in Hope leads to firearms seizure, recovered goods and arrest

Victim recovering after being beaten and dragged along ground at Lake of the Woods

There’s a new way to send in photographic evidence of fisheries violations to DFO

Conservation and Protection officials have a hotline and email to get reports

Supernatural fundraiser coming to Kilby this October

The Vancouver Supernatural Group will be investigating paranormal activity at the historic site

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Free Tesla 3 offered with purchase of Surrey townhome

Century Group’s offer for Viridian development runs through Oct. 31

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

Sikh millworker lodges human rights complaint against Interfor, again

Mander Sohal, fired from Delta’s Acorn Mill, alleges discrimination based on religion and disability

UVic students killed in Bamfield bus crash were from Winnipeg, Iowa City

Authorities said the two victims were a man and a woman, both aged 18

Safety concerns resurface after fatal bus crash on Vancouver Island

Huu-ay-aht First Nations wants a safe route between Bamfield and Port Alberni

National weather forecasters predict average fall, cold winter

The Weather Network says precipitation will about average in most parts of Canada

Two dead, two in critical condition in highway crash near Campbell River

Highway 19 reopened Sunday night after it was closed in both directions

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Most Read