After contracting polio, survivor immunizes children
Ahmed immunizes a child in Pakistan, one of the four remaining polio-endemic countries.
When Zaheer "Zak" Ahmed finally returned to Pakistan, after being diagnosed with polio and enduring weeks of isolation in Australia, one of the first things he did was sign up for a National Immunization Day. Ahmed's was the first case of polio diagnosed in Australia in 21 years, so he knows firsthand that until polio is eradicated worldwide, it has the potential to strike virtually anywhere.
While a student in Australia, Ahmed contracted polio after a visit home to Pakistan – one of four remaining endemic countries, along with Afghanistan, India, and Nigeria. When he returned again to Pakistan after being treated, he contacted Rotarian Jenny Horton in Islamabad, who works as technical consultant for the World Health Organization. She helped him get involved with local immunization activities.
Ahmed participated in a five-day immunization campaign, held in October, which reached 32.2 million children. It included three National Immunization Days and two mop-up days, with health care workers and volunteers going door to door to administer the vaccine.
Through PolioPlus Partners, all team members were equipped with a Rotary cap, ID badge, and lanyard.
Since Rotary launched its PolioPlus program in 1985, more than two billion children have received the oral polio vaccine, and the number of cases has declined by 99 percent.
Ahmed was kept in isolation during his stay at Melbourne's Box Hill Hospital until he tested negative for the poliovirus. Alerted by Horton, Rotarians in Australia replaced his clothing, which had to be destroyed, brought him games and newspapers and, above all, let him know someone cared while he endured constant media scrutiny.
It's believed that Ahmed's childhood polio immunizations in Pakistan protected him from permanent damage. Forced to leave Australia because his student visa expired, he hopes to return this month to resume his studies.