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Carol Ferguson - Polio Eradication


Our progam featured Doylestown Rotarian Carol Ferguson who is the District 7430 Polio Plus Coordinator and a Founder of the Pennsylvania Polio Survivors Network. She used her personal experience to help shed some light on this terrible disease. It is hard to picture the plight of the polio victims in the days before the vaccine. There is the terror, the loneliness, and the pain that they will never forget.

 

Children had to be isolated from their families, often for weeks or months. Parents were left standing on sidewalks to wave to their hospitalized children. Some families needed to travel hundreds of miles to find a hospital with an open bed. The ones at home had their entire family quarantined. There was the stigma of the house being the home of a cripple. The crutches and braces needed for walking set them apart from the other kids. Eventually they learned to live with the consequences, but polio was not done yet.

 

This is a disease that attacks again as the survivors age. Symptoms of Post-Polio Sequelae occur, on average, 35 years after the acute polio infection and may include: overwhelming fatigue, muscle weakness, joint pain, difficulty swallowing & breathing, and sleep disorders. The last outbreak in the United States was in 1979. The reason that polio has ceased to be a major problem in the USA is that vaccines work. Unfortunately, misinformation abounds, and many people are choosing not to vaccinate their children. This is dangerous because there are still places in the world where polio is active. This is particularly true for Pakistan and Afghanistan. The recent discovery of Pakistani-based polio in sewage in New York State proves that polio is only a plane ride away.

 

Carol urged us to heed Rotary’s call to action and help spread proper information about vaccinations in our community. Vaccine information packets are available to distribute to Pediatricians, Pediatric Dentists, Pre-Schools and Day Care Centers. The packets are available in English and Spanish and are available at no cost. We hope we will soon see the day when polio is officially the second disease to be completely eradicated. No one should suffer from a vaccine preventable disease.

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