Bryan Rotary Club met both in person and virtually to hear Dwight Bowers discuss his personal experience with Polio.
The first Rotary polio vaccination drive occurred on 29 September 1979. Rotary International had signed an agreement committing Rotary and the government of the Philippines to immunize 6 million children in a joint effort at the cost of an estimated $760,000 over multiple years.
The program was such a success that in 1985 Rotary launched PolioPlus and founded Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. With worldwide partners, Rotary International has given the oral polio vaccine to more than 2.5 billion children.
Although Polio had been around for thousands of years, it was not until the late 19th century that it became a World problem due to the mass migration of the human population as new opportunities arose in developing nations.
The first significant Polio outbreak in the United States occurred in Vermont in 1894, with a reported 18 deaths and 132 permanent paralysis cases.
Although Polio was contagious, it was not until 1908 that Karl Landsteiner and Erwin Popper, Viennese physicians, discovered that a virus caused Polio.
The virus ravaged the United States in a major outbreak of 1916, killing over 6,000 people and paralyzing thousands more. The iron lung became a lifesaver to those suffering from Polio paralysis.
Paul Alexander, “the man in the iron lung,” aged 74, has been on the iron lung since he was six years old and has lived a successful life as an attorney learning to adapt and “frog breathe.”
Symptoms are not visible in an estimated 72% of victims (a definite number is uncertain since people did not know they had Polio). Flu-like symptoms are prevalent and disappear within two to five days.
More serious symptoms develop in a smaller proportion ranging from paresthesia (pins and needles), meningitis (spinal cord infection), and paralysis (whole or parts of the body).
The fact that so many were paralyzed or died from Polio makes it evident the epidemic was far greater since only a few develop severe symptoms.
There are two kinds of Polio: wild variants and vaccine transmission. Wild Polio spreads in two ways: drinking contaminated water or inhaling secretions from an affected individual.
There are three types of wild Polio strands: types 1, 2, and 3. In 2012, the eradication of type 3 was declared, with type 2 eliminated in 2015. The World Health Organization (WHO) developed its fighting strategy against Polio using Rotary’s plan in the Philippines.
Working together, WHO and Rotary crusaded with other organizations to eradicate Polio. Remember: there is no cure for Polio; it can only be eliminated.
The mission to vaccinate the World has been a hazardous one. There were rumors concerning the actual contents of the vaccine. One of the most prevalent is the belief that it will sterilize Pakistani men.
This has resulted in the massacre of more than 440 predominantly female vaccine workers who were attempting to administer the polio shot.
A unification between the religious sects and the polio fighters has led to the preaching of the vaccine’s benefits through the Imam’s use of the Quran. This year, there are only two known cases in the World: the type 1 variant in Pakistan.
Two types of vaccines exist: oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) and inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV). OPV used to be trivalent (fought all three wild strands), but once the type 2 strand was eradicated, the vaccine became bivalent (only fights types 1 and 3).
It contains live transmittable poliovirus that can devastate communities with insufficient immunization. IPV does not contain live viruses and protects against all three-strand types. Since 2000, the only vaccine used in the United States is IPV. Travelers should be aware some countries use contagious OPV – this is why you should be vaccinated.
Dwight Bowers’ personal experience with Polio occurred in 1950, at the tender age of four. Waking up one morning, he discovered he could no longer move his arms or legs.
His parents raced to Lima, Ohio, in the old pick-up to get him to the hospital. His symptoms occurred when more than 35,000 people were paralyzed/disabled per year since the late 1940s.
Dwight’s form of Polio ravages the nervous system and affects the spinal cord, causing muscle weakness and paralysis. The nerves are destroyed and never heal. This is what happened to young Dwight Bowers.
He was confined to a ward with fellow victims of all ages, witnessing horrific deaths and suffering. All the while, his mother sat vigilance in the corridor for those two weeks, with his father bringing fresh clothes daily, neither knowing if their son would live.
There was complete isolation with no contact whatsoever. But, Dwight was fortunate to receive the Sister Kenny Treatment (Sister Elizabeth Kenny from Australia, 1880-1952, and friend of President F.D. Roosevelt, another victim of Polio).
The reeducation of Dwight’s body and muscles were made possible by using a combination of painful hot pads to ease the spasms and exercises for the paralyzed limbs allowing the body to find different pathways to function.
Because of his treatments, Dwight was able to compete in athletics participating in track and football. He overcame the nightmares of those two weeks when only four years old.
Rotary has allowed him to be part of his passion for eradicating Polio and ensuring no one else ever suffers from this virus.
For more information on Rotary’s fight against Polio, please visit their website (http://rotary.org or https://www.endpolio.org). The CDC is also an excellent information-sharing source to eradicate and eliminate this disease (http://CDC.gov).
Contact your local health department in Williams County to schedule an appointment (http://www.williamscountyhealth.org) and do your part to eradicate this debilitating disease.
Bryan Rotary Club thanked Dwight Bowers for his passionate presentation and will donate a book in his honor to the Williams County Public Library.
The club is now meeting in person at Wesley Church, with virtual still an option. All are welcome to join either in person or virtually; email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.