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Polio Is Gone, But To Some, It Never Left

By Harold Bearden
Thursday, September 3, 2015 | 1:09 PM

Jim Casteel Stan Watson

The Baby Boomer generation knew of polio and the frightening, crippling effects, even death.  It was feared by everyone, especially during the epidemic of 1952, the worst outbreak in the nation's history.  Nearly 58,000 cases were reported that year, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. Most of the victims were children, and it struck usually in the summer months, when kids were most active. It was more feared than the atomic bomb.  That all changed in 1955, when Dr. Jonas Salk and a team of researchers discovered a vaccine found to be effective in preventing the dreaded virus. 

Today, polio has been effectively eradicated in most of the world, and is presently found in only two third-world countries.  The International Rotary Club (RI) Foundation has funded and continues to fund the effort to completely remove it from the face of the earth.  The cost has been in the hundred of millions of dollars.  RI gets its funding from individual clubs though out the world. Within the last few years, a substantial donation was made by Bill and Melinda Gates, of Microsoft.  The donation was made as a challenge to all Rotary Clubs. For each $100 million donated by the Clubs, Gates would match the donations, resulting in more money to help completely eradicate polio. 

The epidemic which swept through the United States in the late 40's, peaking in 1952, left thousands with aftereffects in the form of partial paralysis, respiratory problems, and underdeveloped limbs. Presently, the survivors are experiencing polio all over again with Post Polio Syndrome (PPS). Symptoms can be as bad as the original polio. 

Stan Watson and Jimmy Casteel, both victims of polio when they were children, recently visited the Haleyville Rotary Club and shared their life experiences coping with Post Polio Syndrome.  Presently, both are forming an area support group. If you or anyone you know is a polio survivor, and possibly suffering from PPS, please contact Jim Casteel at 205-412-8007 or jimcasteel@gmail.com. 

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