With the possible eradication of wild poliovirus type 3, the polio eradication countdown is getting closer than ever to achieving no more cases of polio worldwide.
On 10 November 2012, an 11 month old boy from Yobe in northern Nigeria became the last child to be paralyzed by wild polio virus type 3 (WPV3). More than two years on, no other case of the virus has been reported since, anywhere in the world. Experts are becoming quietly more confident that this means global WPV3 transmission may have been interrupted.
This would be a historic milestone for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), following on from the global eradication of wild poliovirus type 2 (WPV2) in 1999. It would mean that only one wild serotype – wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) – is still circulating anywhere in the world.
Two years with no cases of the virus is no guarantee of its eradication, however. One of the key dangers with WPV3 is that it is less virulent than WPV1, causing cases at a rate of approximately 1 in 1,000 infections (compared with 1 in 200 infections with WPV1). While causing fewer cases is a good thing, it also means the virus can transmit silently for longer without being detected. Continued surveillance is necessary before the global eradication of WPV3 can be conclusively determined, with more time being the strongest guarantee that the virus is not circulating without showing itself through cases of paralysis.
Despite this, the fact that no WPV3 has been detected for more than two years is extremely encouraging news for the global effort to eradicate all strains of this disease. It is a reminder that the eradication of polio is achievable, and that children everywhere will one day be free from the threat of this disease.
Four months into this year of working to Light Up Rotary, I am more excited about Rotary than ever before. I've been to 22 countries, visited dozens of cities, and met thousands of Rotarians. I've seen amazing projects and been inspired over and over again by the terrific work Rotarians do all over the world. And I've been privileged to be part of all kinds of Rotary events, from club meetings to Rotary institutes, from Rotary Days to Foundation dinners.
Every event is memorable. I feel especially honored when I am invited to share in club celebrations. To me, taking part in a Rotary club celebration as Rotary International president is like being invited to a family event as an honored guest. Indeed, Rotary is the biggest family in the world.
You could say that Rotary is built of service: Each project is another brick in the big building that is Rotary. If our service forms the bricks, then there is no question that friendship is the mortar that holds those bricks together. I see this every day, but nowhere more clearly than at some of the most special Rotary club events: their centennial celebrations.
Being president of Rotary International in its 110th year, I've been lucky to take part in a number of these. It is natural, when visiting long-serving clubs, to want to know what their secret is – because I have always noticed that the longest-serving clubs are also some of the most productive. They are large, they are active, and they do great work. Not only that, but they have a great time doing it.
Of course, that is their secret: In Rotary, strong friendships and great service go hand in hand. When we enjoy our work, we want to do it. We want to work harder, and we want to work better. We look forward to Rotary meetings. Even when our lives are busy, we make Rotary a priority – because we want to see our friends, and we want to serve.
That is why Rotary is still here, after more than 109 years. In Chinese, we say:
A life without a friend is a life without sun.
Our Rotary friendships give light to our lives, and it is Rotary friendship – as well as service – that lets us Light Up Rotary.
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