Taking action doesn't have to take months, especially when disease is involved. International aid groups are repsponding to a polio outbreak that has affected African countries like the Republic of Congo.
The World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Rotary Interntional have set a goal to vaccinate 3 million people for polio in the Republic of Congo, Congo, and Angola between this Friday and the end of 2010. Things are a little scary right now because almost 100 deaths this month have been suspected as polio (4 have definitely been confirmed). The target of the disease are young people 15 to 29.
Polio is an incredibly contagious viral infectious disease that can cause lifelong paralysis and even death. It typically strikes humans under five years old, making it known as a childhood disease.
You might be thinking, "Wait, isn't polio something only my grandparents talk about?" While polio has existed for centuries, its scientific discovery and large spike in the early 20th century made American parents terrified for their children. 1952 saw the worst outbreak of polio in American history, adding to the already intense race to find a vaccine.
American William Hammon eventually created a vaccine in the 1950s that reduced the infection rate by 99% over the next sixty years. However, vaccines are not cures and around 1,000 people are still affected every year, mainly in developing countries where the simple oral vaccination is not commonly offered.
This current campaign is part of the World Health Organization's dedication since 1988 to vaccinate developing nations. While the WHO has accomplished overwhelming success, they are taking this central Africa spike in infection very seriously.
"Every man, every woman, every child will be immunized irrespective of their past immunization status," said Dr. Luis G. Sambo, WHO's regional director for Africa.
Polio survivors are one of the largest groups of people with disabilities in the world, with over one million living in the United States alone. They are large supporters of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark law that congress passed in 1990 mandating that various aspects of life be accessible to people of all abilities (sidenote: thanks to that legislative push, Americans know that people with disabilities are guaranteed to have a handicapped parking space in lots and ramps to enter buildings).
What can you do?
Talk with senior citizens to learn more about polio.
Take action against polio with these ideas
Less polio cases doesn't mean there are less kids in hospitals. Help 'em out.