Retired SIUC professor battles polio globally

By Gus Bode

Factoid:Ella Lacey will be speaking at 8 p.m. Monday in the Thebes Room of the Student Center.

Ella Lacey has been fighting a disease that was officially eradicated in the United States 10 years ago. Lacey, a retired SIUC professor of medicine, is battling polio.

The disease does not cause alarm in the U.S., but in developing nations across the globe, it is taking its toll.


After traveling to India, where she applied her teaching skills to end the spread of polio, Lacey returned to Carbondale to spread the word about PolioPlus, which is the Rotary International campaign to eliminate polio around the world. Lacey will be speaking at the Thebes Room of the Student Center Monday night.

According to Rotary International, polio is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. Although it can strike at any age, it typically occurs in children under the age of three.

The virus first enters the body through the mouth, and then multiplies inside the throat and intestines. The most dangerous cases are when the virus attacks the motor neurons of the brain stem, resulting in difficulty in breathing or even death.

Sarah Heyer, a member of the Rotary Club of Carbondale, said she was pleased to have the Carbondale resident bring the global issue to the club’s meeting.

“When she speaks, she speaks with authority,” Heyer said. “She is the one person in Carbondale who has actually been on the front lines in this fight against polio.”

Heyer said there are only six countries – Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt – where vaccinations are still needed. But getting the medication to those remote areas is a difficult job.

According to the National Health Museum, Jonas Salk found the first vaccine against polio in 1952. The vaccine used a mixture of three types of viruses, grown in monkey kidney cultures.


For those interested in getting involved with local and international community service, Heyer said the local Rotary Club welcomes new members and anyone can join the group events, which take place on the first and third Monday of every month.

Reporter Nicky Jacobs can be reached at [email protected]