Countdown to History: World Polio Day

A dozen cases of wild polio virus have been reported globally in 2017. Of course, one case of polio is one case too many when you are on a course to eradicate this devastating disease worldwide. What a staggering thought. 

It’s difficult for us to imagine in the United States today, but in the 1940s and 1950s polio crippled an average of 35,000 people each year. Thanks to an aggressive vaccination effort, the United States has been polio-free since 1979, but people in many areas of the world have continued to suffer the terrible effects of polio in the intervening 38 years. The end goal of a polio-free world is within sight, however.

Today is World Polio Day, which provides an opportunity to look back on what has been accomplished but also to focus on what is left to finish in the remarkable drive to eradicate this disease. 

The CDC Foundation is pleased to support work to eradicate polio. In this role, we host and support the Bob Keegan Polio Eradication Heroes Fund.

This fund recognizes health workers and volunteers who have incurred serious injury or lost their lives as a direct consequence of their participation in polio eradication activities. The families of the workers, who have been the victims of automobile crashes, military conflicts and other life-threatening events, receive a certificate recognizing the victim’s heroic commitment to polio eradication and a cash tribute. We have honored 20 polio heroes in 2017 alone.

Bob KeeganThe fund was established in June 2000 in partnership with major polio eradication partners. Robert “Bob” Keegan was the first contributor, donating the award money he received when he was recognized with CDC’s prestigious William C. Watson Jr. Medal of Excellence. Keegan remained the fund’s strongest advocate. When he retired from CDC in May 2007, he completed a bike ride across the United States from Florence, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia—4,165 miles—to raise awareness and resources for the polio eradication initiatives of the CDC Foundation and Rotary International. When Keegan passed away in January 2012, the CDC Foundation renamed this fund in his honor to express our gratitude for his extraordinary leadership and dedication.

We ask that you honor those who have given so much to ensure a polio-free world by making a gift to the Bob Keegan Polio Eradication Heroes Fund today.


Emily Webb is manager of stewardship for the CDC Foundation.