Rotary anti-polio campaigners will light up bank

The Catedral de Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, was site of one of the displays.

Rotary Club members here and around the world have been fighting polio for two decades, and this week around the world they will publicize the campaign by projecting “End polio now” on the facades of famous buildings in San José the main Banco Nacional headquarters will be illuminated tonight, local Rotary members said.

Polio, the dreaded crippler and killer, is a painful memory for those older than 55 years. It was in 1955 when Jonas Salk announced his vaccine.

Three years earlier a U.S. polio epidemic killed 3,145 and left 21,269 persons crippled.

An epidemic in Costa Rica in 1953 was directly responsible for founding the Hospital Nacional de Niños.

More than 2,000 Costa Rican children suffered serious crippling because of the disease in 1953. Carlos Saenz Herrera and Roberto Ortiz Brenes, both physicians, created the Asociación Pro-Hospital Nacional de Niños. The association generated enough funds to open the hospital in 1964.

Since then in much of the world polio was beaten back with advance after advance in the vaccine. Not so in four countries.

In India 2011 is expected to be a key year in the fight to stop the disease, said the Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign. India is one of only four nations where transmission of the wild poliovirus has never been stopped. Last year, India experienced a record low number of polio cases, just 42. The other remaining polio-endemic countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, said the campaign

Great progress has been made, and the incidence of polio infection has plunged from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 cases in 2010, the campaign added. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths, it said.

The lighting of the slogan on the Banco Nacional building will be at 7:30 p.m. The message has been shown on other structures, including the Sydney Opera House, London’s Tower Bridge, the Roman Coliseum, Egypt’s Pyramid of Khafre, Chicago’s Wrigley Building, the Obelisk in Argentina, and the San Francisco Ferry Building, said the campaign.

The Trevi Fountain in Italy, the New York Stock Exchange and the Charminar monument in Hyderabad, India, will be illuminated this week along with the Banco Nacional building.

Today marks the 106th anniversary of the founding of Rotary, a service organization of business and professional leaders. Many other structures around the world also will be illuminated this week.

Local Rotary Club members said that the illumination would be directed from the small park that is between the main entry to Correos de Costa Rica and the Club Unión downtown.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also are associated with the campaign. Rotary members are trying to raise $200 million for the eradication effort to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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