Posted by Bill Osborne

The Rotary Club of North Jackson celebrated World Polio Day at its October 20 meeting with three speakers focused on the celebration. Those speakers were: Floyd Lancia, Director, Rotary International, Skip Nolan M.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Nelson Atehortua, M.D., Ph.D., Asst. Professor, Dept. of Behavioral and Environmental Health of School of Public Health at Jackson State University and Dist.6820 Polio Plus Chair. 

The subject of Lancia’s presentation was the Current Status of Polio eradication under Rotary International, Why are we stuck in Pakistan and Afghanistan?, What is the next big thing after Polio for Rotary?

Lancia said that polio is preventable, but it is not curable. The work of Rotary and its partners has reduced the number of global cases annually from 350,000 in 1985 to about 77 this year, a reduction of 99.9%. Currently, polio is present only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is present along the Pakistan-Afganistan border where some 50,000 people cross between the two countries daily. Africa is polio-free. Nigeria, the last country in Africa to have polio was declared polio-free in August 2020. Lancia noted that due to the reduction in the number of polio cases, an estimated 18 million children have not contracted polio. Lancia said that if Rotary stopped its polio work now, there would be 200,000 cases annually in ten years.

The subject of Nolan’s presentation was Polio and Covid 19, What are the differences? Where are we now with Covid 19? His perspective about the future.

Per Dr. Nolan, Polio and COVID are both viruses. Other commonly know viruses are Flu, Ebola, Herpes, HIV, the cold. He said that there are no specific treatments for most viruses. 

Polio is transmitted via fecal-oral trajectories. It attacks nerve cells and there are no specific treatments. It is incurable but is preventable with immunization. COVID 19 is spread by coughing, sneezing, exposure to contaminated surfaces. It leads to respiratory infections and pneumonia. It is treated with corticosteroids, convalescent plasma, and redeliver. COVID 19 can be prevented by social distancing, facemasks, and good hand sanitation. COVID-19 is medically termed “Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; SARS COV2. It is a novel (new) virus first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It is similar to a virus found in bats. Good science is lacking on COVID 19 and clinical studies take time and are expensive, but are being conducted. Much of the information on social media is either unproven or untrue. Politicization and disinformation prevented a well-organized national response n the US.

With COVID 19, Mortality is highest in the elderly, but it does kill young healthy people. The virus can be transmitted by people without symptoms’ i.e., asymptomatic. With respect to the severity of the illness, Dr. Nolan commented that:

  • 80% of the cases are mild

  • 14%are more serious

  • 5% are critical illnesses 

  • 10% require hospitalization (10 % of those require the ICU and mechanical ventilation)

Transmission is person-to-person via close-range contact by respiratory droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. The virus attacks mucous membranes (mouth, nose, throat, eyes). The risk of infection increases with the closeness of contact and the duration of the exposure. A person may be infected if their hands become contaminated and touch the eyes, mouth, or nose. Close contact implies a distance of fewer than 6 feet as the droplets normally drop at a distance of 6 feet. Infected people can transmit the virus for 2 days before symptoms and 7 days after being symptomatic.

COVID 19 can be prevented by hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene (masks), avoiding touching your face, cleaning and disinfecting items, avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces, maintaining social distances, and implementing a 14-day self-quarantine following exposure to the virus. The wearing of masks prevents transmission by the wearer to other individuals. Dr. Nolan said it is not a sign of weakness but is an “Act of Christian Charity.”

Atehortua spoke about his experiences as a polio survivor and the future. He said that we are not done with polio: we are close, but not done. We shouldn’t drop the ball until we are done.

All three presentations may be seen at the following website:

We thank Lancia, Dr. Nolan, and Dr. A for their presentations. They are shown in the following photos. The photo of Dr. Nolan (Center) is with Club President Lee Carney and Club Vice President Dr. Suman Das who served as master of ceremonies for our celebration.

Floyd Lancia


President Lee Carney, Dr. Nolan, Vice President Dr. Das


Dr. Atehortua