SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Billions of dollars have been spent over the past 40 years to eliminate polio, said John Schneider the District Governor for the Rotary 5610. The district which includes all of South Dakota, part of southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa.

“We are so close,” Schneider said of the Rotary goal to eliminate polio.

“It’s very disheartening to see we have a case in our own country,” Schneider said.

In July 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said was notified of a case of polio in an unvaccinated individual from Rockland County, New York. Polio has also been detected in the wastewater in that county in New York.

Bob Taylor is the Rotary’s Region End Polio Now Coordinator for a zone of Rotary International which includes South Dakota and other parts of the middle U.S.

Taylor said Rotary took a pledge in 1985 to vaccinate “all the world’s children,” Taylor said. The Polio Plus campaign was started.

This was after a 1979 effort started to vaccinate six million children in the Philippines.

In 1985 there were 250,000 cases of polio worldwide, Taylor said. As of Aug. 9, there were 20 including the case in New York.

Taylor said now that polio has been confirmed in the U.S., Rotary is working with health officials on surveys of sewer systems in New York.

“We do what we call surveys. The human body secretes the polio virus into our sewer system,” Taylor said. “Our people are out there looking at what’s going on in the sewers foreign countries and our country.”

The case in New York, is a “double whammy,” the person flew into America apparently already carrying the polio virus, Taylor said.

Since the diagnosis of polio, the virus has been found in the sewer system in Rockland County, New York.

“Absolutely critical that we found out if there other cases around,” Taylor said. Officials also need to monitor sewer systems to learn if there are increasing amounts of the virus.

The focus of the testing can be narrowed to locations.

“We can do this by neighborhoods in the sewers,” Taylor said.

The public and even some Rotarians may not understand the risk of polio. The U.S. is decades beyond when polio struck most severely in the 1940, 1950s and 1960s.

Taylor had polio himself in 1965. His left side was paralyzed. Today, he has no issues from polio because of therapy and care.

FILE – In this Oct. 7, 1954, file photo, Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, holds a rack of test tubes in his lab in Pittsburgh. Tens of millions of today’s older Americans lived through the polio epidemic, their childhood summers dominated by concern about the virus. (AP Photo, File)

Others weren’t as fortunate as some spent years in an iron lung, which is a mechanical ventilator. Others had permanent paralysis.

In 1952, there were about 58,000 polio cases were reported in the U.S., according to the College of Physicians in Philadelphia and the Mutter Museum and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“It’s just fascinating how widespread it (was) in the United States,” Schneider said. “People saw firsthand the impact of polio on the lives of their families and maybe their neighbors and understood how important it was to get vaccinated for it,” Schneider said.

Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine. It was readily available to the public in 1955.

“Now, your neighbors they don’t have polio. Nobody you know has polio,” Schneider said.

The distance from the severity of the virus as well as the anti-vaccine movement, concern the Rotarians.

“The idea that anti-vaccine (can) overwhelms the idea that we need to be preventing these diseases,” Schneider said.

“What we’re finding though is parts of the country that are becoming anti-vaccers,” Taylor said. “They don’t have particularly any good scientific reasoning for this other than their own feelings that this is is something they don’t want to involve themselves with.”

Unfortunately, those parents don’t involve their children in the consideration, Taylor said.

The challenge of convincing those with anti-vaccine beliefs isn’t the first Rotary has faced with its polio campaign.

Eradicating polio meant overcoming the challenges of needed funding to do mass global vaccination and even religious and cultural resistance to be able to vaccinate children for polio, Taylor said.

“That’s easy to say. How do you get to all the world’s children?” Taylor said.

Rotary realized it needed more partners to help carry out the mission.

Rotary International was one of the founders of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The other partners are the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

According to Rotary International, 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated through the GPE Initiative.

Taylor said a key piece of vaccination is working with the individual governments in different countries who may now carry out an immunization plan.

Rotary continues to work with its partners to eliminate polio but the recent case in the U.S. is a reminder that the organization needs help.

“Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” Taylor said.

Schneider and Taylor said the case in New York is a reminder of how important it is to be vaccinated for polio and other diseases and viruses.