Polio is all but eradicated around the world — except for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
That’s the message Dr. Dilbeep Baath delivered to Ripon Rotarians.
Currently an internal medicine physician at Doctors Hospital in Manteca, Baath was involved in polio outbreaks in his native India early in his career. He noted that so far this year — as of March 20 — only seven cases had been reported in the world. That’s a far cry from the more than 65,000 annual cases worldwide annually in the 1980s when Rotary International started its polio eradication effort.
The doctor said there was a frantic fear when he got involved with the effort years ago by the mothers of small children of a possible genocide taking place with the medical teams offering the vaccine to their children. That is still the case in the Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Last year there were only 35 cases of polio reported worldwide. The last case of polio in India was in 2011.
The vaccination effort was difficult in India because the south half of the country speaks in a different dialect than the north and if people don’t speak English, they just don’t understand each other, Baath added. The terrifying result would be the children who would not be able to walk because of the debilitating disease that would turn them into crawlers, often without the benefit of wheelchairs.
Rotary’s wheel chair program went worldwide, shipping countless chairs to the third world countries in a move to make a difference for those infected and most crippled for life. Wheelchairs were collected all across the U.S. for years from the smallest towns to the large cities by the local Rotarians.
When the Polio Plus Program started in the 1980s the Manteca Rotary Club members alone donated $23,000 under then President and Manteca attorney John Brinton. The plus refers to vaccines for other diseases that the international service club has provided at the same time. It was recently noted that vaccinations have to continue for at least three years after the world is determined to be polio free.
Baath recalled that he was in charge of 22 villages with a goal that every child five years and under would be vaccinated making India polio free as a result.
Asked by one of the Rotarians during the meeting at the Spring Creek Country Club what the next big challenge might be that the international service club could focus upon to make a medical difference. He responded that the Opiod Crisis is the big problem today in the world, and would probably be more difficult to control.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.