Skip to main content
AdvocacyFebruary 26, 2014

What Does the Polio-Like Illness in California Mean for Polio Globally?

I’m sure you have been following the medical cases in California where state health officials are tracking as many as 25 children who are displaying “polio-like” symptoms. Although these children do not suffer from polio, their deteriorating condition brings to the forefront the devastation that polio can cause for pockets of our world’s children.

Polio is a highly infectious virus spread by person to person contact. In environments with poor levels of hygiene and water, the virus has an easy vehicle to infect people. Most people infected with the virus have no signs of illness and are never aware they have been infected. These symptomless individuals carry the virus in their body and can silently spread it to thousands of others before the first case of polio paralysis emerges.

At its peak in the 1950s, polio paralyzed up to 20,000 people a year in the U.S., mostly children. Widespread immunization efforts wiped out the disease in the U.S. Fast forward 50+ years and polio still remains endemic in three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

I have received emails from Shot@Life supporters following the national news coverage of these unfortunate cases in California. You all want to know: What does this mean for polio globally? First, it is important to remember that these cases are not polio cases, but they do serve as an unfortunate reminder that it wasn’t too long ago that polio was still affecting children in the U.S. and we must continue to educate Americans about the need for polio vaccinations worldwide.

We are so close to eradicating this disease Use this national awareness to educate your local community on the importance of supporting global polio vaccinations. Contact your local opinion editors and let them know you have a perspective on this issue. I look forward to a time when everyone in the world can think of polio as a “thing of the past”.

Devi R. Thomas