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Rotary and PolioPlus

“What’s really fortunate for young people today is that they don’t know what polio is. In fact, many of the childhood diseases that were prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s no longer exist in the United States.”That’s JJ Johnson, President of the Denison Rotary Club.

“For anybody who is in their 50s and older, and even some of the people who are just a little bit younger than that, they’re well aware of what polio is because they, or a family member, may have been afflicted with polio.”

Rotary’s Role in Eradiation of Polio

Johnson connected the dots between Rotary and polio by discussing Rotary’s PolioPlus Program.

Rotary International is a worldwide organization with individuals, clubs and members who all contribute to keep on growing PolioPlus. It’s a program designed to eradicate polio from every corner of the earth. The PolioPlus program was first devised in 1985. The goal of PolioPlus is to eradicate the disease from the face of the earth. Taking the next step, Rotary International joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative back in 1988. Rotary has raised millions of dollars to do just that. There’s no cure for polio. It only can be eradicated by immunization.”

Polio Still Exists in the World

Polio is caused by one of three types of a wild polio virus. Johnson says it often spreads due to contact with infected feces as a result of poor hygiene or from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

“Polio is an illness caused by a virus that mainly affects the nerves in the spinal cord or the brainstem.  The disease is spread from person to person. All it takes is a sneeze or cough droplets from an infected person to become infected yourself. In its most severe form, polio can lead to a person being unable to move certain limbs, also called paralysis. It can also lead to trouble breathing and sometimes death. The wild polio virus has variations named type 1, type 2 and type 3. Type 2 and 3 have been eradicated and no longer exist. Type 1 only exists in a few parts of the world and is the one most likely to cause paralysis.”

Worldwide, polio is now limited to just two countries.

“The wild polio virus type one is found in only Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988 from an estimated 350,000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries to six reported cases in 2021. Pakistan and Afghanistan are difficult counties to vaccinate people due to the terrain, cultures, and beliefs of the population.”

Johnson explained the last case of polio in the United States occurred in 1979 before mass vaccination made the disease obsolete. Eradication, though, is an on-going effort,

“It’s difficult to eradicate a disease and get it gone. There have been a few cases of polio in the US since 1979. The most recent was an isolated case during the fall of 2022. An unvaccinated man in Rockland County, New York was paralyzed as a result of a polio infection. That just shows how difficult it is to eradicate polio for good and we have to be vigilant about it.”

Polio Is Eradicated Through Vaccination

Johnson says being vigilant means getting vaccinated.

“The polio vaccine is easily administered today as a liquid. Only a few drops of the polio vaccine is all that’s needed. People need to get the vaccination. I understand some of us have an aversion to vaccinations. They’re concerned about chemicals and drugs and so on. I would tell you I would rather take a polio vaccination every day of the week than actually suffer through that disease. Not only can it paralyze you, but it can also kill you. I would just encourage anyone who isn’t already vaccinated to get the vaccination. None of us wants to see someone suffer unnecessarily from a disease we know how to prevent.”

You Can Help Eradicate Polio

The Denison Rotary Club participates in the polio eradication efforts through the PolioPlus program at Rotary International.

“The motto of Rotary is ‘Service Above Self’. The Denison Rotary Club holds an auction annually.  Our most recent auction was our 30th year and we’ve been very successful. Our club has raised over a million dollars in those 30 years that we’ve been able to reinvest in Denison and Crawford County. In 2023, we raised just over $50,000 and we’ll put 95% of funds we raised right back into our community. We’ll use the other 5% for international projects like PolioPlus.”

If you would like to support the PolioPlus or End Polio Now campaigns, go to the Rotary International website at If you would like to know more about the Denison Rotary Club and how you can become a member, email JJ Johnson at  



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