We’re getting ready for the 6th annual World Polio Day event in Philadelphia, PA, USA. We will be streaming live from the College of Physicians at 18:30 Philadelphia time (UTC -4), and aim to bring together more than 100,000 viewers around the world. Watch the video above, featuring global health experts and celebrities sharing our progress on the road to polio eradication

Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of 5.  Most know it as polio virus. The virus is spread person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can attack the nervous system, and in some instances, lead to paralysis. Although there is no cure, there is a safe and effective vaccine – one which Rotary and our partners use to immunize over 2.5 billion children worldwide.

World Polio Day is celebrated on October 24 globally to generate awareness for the eradication of polio, as well as to honor the efforts of thousands of employees of World Health Organization (WHO) and other organisations committed to the cause. The occasion also commemorates the birth of American medical researcher and virologist Jonas Salk, who discovered and developed one of the first successful poliomyelitis or polio vaccines.

According to WHO, the theme for World Polio Day 2018 is ‘End Polio Now’. WHO defines polio as a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. It has no cure, but can be prevented through immunization. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.

WHO says Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the largest private-public partnership for health, has reduced polio by 99%. It is led by national governments with five core partners –the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The GPEI assists countries in carrying out surveillance for polio and large-scale vaccination rounds.

Polio now survives only among the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities, where it stalks the most vulnerable children. When India was still polio-endemic, there were 6,40,000 vaccination booths, 2.3 million volunteers, 200 million doses of vaccine, 6.3 million ice packs, 191 million homes visited and 172 million children immunized: all this in just one round of the national immunization days.

Rotary International is honored to be a large part of the fundraising effort.