if this sounds like a horror movie, it was no fantasy. This was the reality of life right here in United States when the polio virus struck. In researching data for this blog, I learned that the summers of 1916, 1931, 1943, 1949 and 1952 were the worst years for the polio epidemic. In 1949 there were 42,033 cases of polio reported in the United States and 2,720 deaths. Three years later the reported number of cases rose to 57,879 with 3,145 deaths in 1952.
In Oklahoma, the worst year was in 1949 when 1,323 cases and 66 deaths reported in the state. A major outbreak of polio that occurred in Tulsa County was in 1952 when 159 acute cases were recorded. The last case of polio reported in this area was in 1979. I don’t have the statistics on hand for polio in Mexico, but working as a nurse in my home country exposed me to the suffering of many adults who grew up in the age of the polio epidemic. I still remember the common sight of atrophied limbs, leg braces, crutches and wheelchairs.
October 24, is World Polio Day. According to the Polio Global Eradication Initiative, in 2016 only 37 cases of wild polio were recorded worldwide. This year only 11 cases have been reported so far. I am excited that we have made such incredible progress in banishing this insidious threat from the face of the earth! Imagine, just 30 years ago polio appeared in 125 countries across the world - and now only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria still have active transmissions of the virus.
In honor of World Polio Day I am asking you to join us in eradicating this disease by calling your members of congress to tell them that polio is still a real threat paralyzing children in these countries. Ask Senator Lankford, Senator Inhofe and Congressman Bridenstine to help fund global vaccines. While both House and Senate FY18 bills fund the immunizations accounts at the levels we requested, it is still important for members to make their support known if these two bills go through the conference committee and reconciliation process later this year.Follow these three easy steps to join our national call:
1. Call the Capitol Hill main phone number at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your senator’s or representative's office.
2. Tell the staffer who answers the phone that you have an opinion on global health and foreign aid.
3. Use our talking points to deliver the message.
Remember, your voice counts! A chorus of voices is louder and together with can erase this disease from this world.