Rotarians notch another successful year in polio fight

`Purple Pinkie Day' is October event to help battle disease

Posted 10/18/19

For more than 30 years, members of Rotary International across the world have devoted resources to the eradication of poliomyelitis, a serious viral disease spread via contaminated water, which can …

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Rotarians notch another successful year in polio fight

`Purple Pinkie Day' is October event to help battle disease

Posted

For more than 30 years, members of Rotary International across the world have devoted resources to the eradication of poliomyelitis, a serious viral disease spread via contaminated water, which can cause paralysis or death.

Older readers may recall their own anxious parents limiting activities where the disease might be caught — I wasn't allowed to visit the zoo, or other crowded locations, I recall.

Rotarians have reached 2.5 billion children in 122 countries and Oct. 24 is Global Polio Eradication Day, recognized by local clubs in Littleton, Centennial, Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock (two clubs) and those elsewhere.

The massive effort began in the Philippines in 1979, when 6 million children received the vaccine.

When children in India and other countries receive a dose of the oral polio vaccine, originally licensed to American Dr. Albert Sabin in 1960, their pinkie finger is colored with purple nail polish or dipped in purple dye, so everyone can recognize the immunization.

In Littleton, longtime member Darlee Whiting has organized a special celebration, which she hopes will extend across the area to other clubs — and eventually, internationally: “Purple Pinkie Day” on Oct. 24.

She arranged for City Donuts at 5716 S. Lowell Blvd., Littleton (just north of Belleview), to put purple frosting on the end of “long john” pastries, which resemble a finger shape.

Customers can pay whatever they wish for one of these doughnuts — or a box of them — and proceeds will go to Littleton Rotary's fund for Polio eradication. (The shop's owner is a Rotarian). And the good news is, Bill Gates, through the Gates Foundation, will match every dollar donated in the U.S., two-to-one. Whiting hopes the idea will spread among Rotarians.

She says that longtime Rotarian Dr. Charles Vail reported recently that the effort continues in India, although it is now removed from the list of countries where polio is still endemic. No new cases were reported there since 2014, as systematic immunization continues. (Local Rotary members, including Whiting, traveled to India some years ago to distribute vaccine door to door. They had to be female, she says.)

Rotary Clubs around the world scheduled a fundraiser for Oct. 24, Whiting says.

Since 1988, the disease is 97 percent eliminated, but the effort must be maintained to prevent a relapse.

Polio still exists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, according to Rotary International's extensive website, but the virus has been eradicated elsewhere gradually.

Enjoy a doughnut and coffee and send money and good wishes to a child, miles away, Whiting asks …

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