(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) -- About 60 years ago if a person would say the word 'polio,' it brought up big fears. In 1952, 60,000 children in the U.S. alone were infected with the disease that in its most severe form caused nerve injury leading to paralysis.
"When paralysis or weakness does occur it tends to affect the legs more so than the arms and occasionally the breathing muscles get affected and that's what led to the iron lung machines," said Dr. Robert Folk, Infectious Disease Specialist for Mosaic Life Care.
Communities at the time often closed theaters, schools and swimming pools for fear of further spreading polio.
However, on Thursday, local Rotarians joined St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray in proclaiming Thursday as World Polio Day for the city, a celebration of Rotary's work to help eradicate the disease that many of the younger generations have never even heard of.
"It's been an amazing journey," said Don Gladhart, president-elect for Rotary District 6040, which represents most of northern Missouri. "In the 1980s when Rotary made it an effort to take on Polio, there were hundreds of thousands of new cases every year."
This year, the only new cases of Polio reported worldwide have been in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rotary has donated $1.9 billion toward eradicating polio and has worked closely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundaton to fund vaccinaton and education programs.
"We're excited that we're about this close to finishing the job," Gladhart said.
Rotary has committed to raising $150 million over thenext three years, which will be matched 2-to1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, yielding $450 million for polio eradication activities, including immunization and surveillance.