UVU is taking action to fight Poliovirus.

“Until poliovirus is interrupted in these countries, all countries are at risk,” says UVU Public Health student Lilly Hall.

Graphic by Kristan Whitney

Local members of the Orem-Lindon Rotary and Rotaract Club met at Utah Valley University for a panel and initiative to discuss the efforts and progress being made toward ending the virus. 

October 24 is dedicated to World Polio Day, a time for global health experts and partners to share their progress on the road to eradicating poliovirus.

Rotary International, a founding member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, has been a major contributor in the fight to end poliovirus. The organization has a worldwide network of 1.4 million people, spread among over 46,000 clubs that unite all over the globe to “take action and create lasting change.” The members work together to achieve a few common goals of promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and protecting the environment. 

“Polio remains an epidemic in only two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until poliovirus is interrupted in these countries, all countries are at risk,” says UVU Public Health student Lilly Hall, who promotes women’s education and is hoping to change sexual and health education laws nationwide. 

Through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, launched in 1985, Rotary International has helped reduce cases of the virus by 99.9% since 1979. Members of the organization have also donated over $2.1 billion dollars to further help the cause. 

“We still have work to do, obviously, but we’re getting close,” says Spencer Mack, president of the Orem-Lindon Rotaract. “Now is the time to keep the heat on and keep the pressure going.” 

The risk of polio is exceptionally high in vulnerable countries with weak public health and immunization services, Hall said, explaining that there is evidence of a direct link between education and vaccines for women and children. She stated that she hopes advocating for and increasing women’s access to proper health education will be vital to the complete eradication of the virus. 

Dr. Joseph Johnson MD with Utah Valley Pediatrics was the event’s keynote speaker, who  provided background information on the virus and the importance of vaccinating against it. 

“Poliovirus has an incubation period of 3-6 days and is spread either from fecal-oral contact or oral-oral contact,” he said. Furthermore, 75% of people who have it are asymptomatic, while around 25% exhibit flu-like symptoms, and only 1% are affected by paralytic polio. 

Dr. Johnson addressed the two types of vaccines against the virus: first is the Salk Vaccine, an injection of a dead strain of the virus that has proven to be about 99% effective after the third dose. The Sabin Vaccine is given orally and is essentially a weakened, but live, strain of the virus. People who take the drug will pass it in their stool, which allows the vaccination to spread easier from person to person, making it more effective in smaller, less developed countries with limited access to proper healthcare. 

Visit Endpolio.org to find out more about what you can do to help and influence a change.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.