Polio: US Doctor Issues Warning

"Well what are the concerns and what is being done?"
Dan Smith

Dan Smith

A passion for podcasting to tell the world about the great things Rotary is doing.

This is Rotary in action.

This morning PDG Bill Grile sent an email to Michelle Corradetti, PN Nelson Maler and others working on a podcast about polio. It was concerning two articles with terrifying headlines about the spread of polio in the U.K and the U.S. Nelson then forwarded it on with two very important questions:

First question, does Rotary have a response to these (and others I am sure) articles?

Second question, why do they NOT mention Rotary and all of the years, money and in some instances lives lost in this battle to eradicate Polio?

Within hours Reg Ling, the The Rotary Foundation Chief Information Officer for End Polio Now Coordinators (EPNCs), replied to Bob Rogers, Rotary Club of Sebastopol with an incredibly detailed reply. Information that you need to know. When I asked Reg if we can share it with you he said “By all means, but note it is only my considered opinion.”

This is how Rotary works.

Here are the two articles:


Below is his response.

Hello Bob,

There is little that may be done effectively. Media professionals write to their editor’s brief and sometimes perhaps with less than a good understanding of the background. As you suggest, letters to the authors or their organizations, may be the best that can be done. But I would not suggest Rotary should do this. Of course, it also presents opportunities for advocacy and not least to point out the omissions that may be overlooked in the media information that is seen in your community.

I had seen these two reports. I subscribe to Google alerts for polio, etc. and there have been many articles that have arisen since the VDPV2 isolates were found, and continue to be found, in London and New York. This week I have read more than 20 reports and opinions. They variously covered the topic with many taking the opportunity to relate the history of polio eradication and the GPEI. Not all tell the whole story.

These merely added to reports I had read earlier. I was away in Greenland for most of July but in the polio overview I sent early in August I noted the polio isolate findings in the UK and in the US had brought a plethora of reports ranging from alarmist views of a return of polio and determined catch-up of immunization campaigns in many counties. For the US, Bill Gates has been outspoken on this too, and mostly to insist polio immunizations need to take place.

There was also a CDC statement that indicated the Global Polio Laboratory Network has confirmed the VDP2 isolates from the UK, New York, and the earlier ones from greater Jerusalem, are genetically linked. Added to this I heard yesterday (but not yet confirmed) that isolates found in Rio de Janeiro may also be genetically linked. Further genetic and epidemiological investigations are ongoing.

The primary question is as you say – is polio returning? Well, potentially yes, but note:

  • There have been no cases reported.
  • They have been found as international travel is returning after the 2 years with very little because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • London and New York are major transport hubs.
  • Both cities are densely populated.


Travelers may unwittingly be carriers of polio infection if they have been to countries where polio viruses are circulating. They could contaminate sewers so it is not surprising that isolates may be detected at water treatment centers.

Well what are the concerns and what is being done?

In London at least, the places of environmental surveillance have increased enormously. More sampling is now being carried out in adjacent areas too.

The risk of contracting polio depends on the level of immunization. Sadly many of these areas have poor immunization levels so immunization plans are being put in place urgently.

I am sure this is the general reaction in all countries.

Before I finish, lets put the polio situation into perspective as of 9 August:

Wild polio virus type 1 (WPV1) is a concern in Pakistan where 14 cases have been reported this year vs. 1 last year and 84 in 2020. All the cases this year have been found in Waziristan close to the border with Afghanistan and those infected had not been immunized. Across the country there have been 13 positive environmental surveillance samples compared with 65 in 2021 and 455 in 2020. The immunization plans are very robust as Bill Gates has said in another statement.

In Afghanistan there has been 1 WPV1 case this year compared to 1 in 2021 and 4 in 2020

Afghanistan though has other problems since the takeover by the Taliban last year.

WPV1 cases have been reported in other countries. 4 this year in Mozambique and 1 last year in Malawi. All these cases have been linked to viruses in Pakistan. Massive immunization campaigns have re-started in the Southern Africa countries.

The milder circulating vaccine derived viruses are very country specific (almost all in Africa) but in total this year:

  • cVDPV – 223 cases cf. 698 cases in 2021.
  • cVDPV positive ES samples – 183 samples cf. 539 samples in 2021.
  • Vaccine derived polio viruses – like those found in London and New York:
    • 3 cases this year vs. 13 cases in 2021.
    • 17 samples this year vs. 131 samples in 2021.


The concern here is the samples in places where there had been none for many years but I have outlined the responses.

No, I don’t believe polio is returning. The number of cases and samples confirm this but we must not be complacent. Now is the time for more advocacy and more fund raising. The media while perhaps failing to mention Rotary, surely is informing the public of the need for immunization. Provided that no one cares who gets the credit and everyone focuses on those that need help there is so much more that can be achieved.

Regards, Reg

The Rotary Foundation Chief Information Officer for End Polio Now Coordinators (EPNCs)
The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers (Community and Economic Development)
Past Rotary Foundation EPNC Team Leader for Northern Europe
(Rotary GB&I, Gibraltar, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Baltic States and Poland.)
Past Rotary Foundation EPNC Team Leader for Southern Europe
(Rotary GB&I, Gibraltar, Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Monaco, Italy, San Ramino, Albania, Austria, the Balkans and Malta.
Past Rotary Foundation Region 21 Endowment and Major Gift Adviser (E/MGA)
Past Rotary Foundation Region 21 EPNC
Past Governor of Rotary District 1110

One Response

  1. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to review. It accurately reports my observations. I would add that concerns on omissions from media reports is like ambulance chasing. It probably will only result in an exchange of platitudes. The media are focused on reporting the news but Rotary should be more concerned about creating the news.

    Regards, Reg

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