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Tags: Perlman | polio | vaccine

Violinist Itzhak Perlman: Time to Wipe Out Polio Forever

By    |   Friday, 24 October 2014 03:17 PM

Itzhak Perlman says the world needs to wipe out the curse of polio once and for all — and the beloved violin virtuoso, stricken with the paralyzing disease since the age of four, says it can be accomplished.

"It only takes 60 cents to vaccinate a child and change their life forever and make sure that they have a good future. We're so close, why not do it?" Perlman said Friday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

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"As far as the polio is concerned, we got to finish it. We cannot just relax and stand by and say it's nothing."

The Israeli-born musician — who plays a Stradivarius violin made in 1714 and used for his stirring solo on the theme from "Schindler's List" — made his heartfelt plea on World Polio Day.

"I got polio when 4 … People [say], how amazing that you play the violin, and I say, you've got to separate your abilities from your disabilities," Perlman said.

"I was not affected by my hands, polio affected my legs, so it had nothing to do with playing the violin or not playing the violin.

"I actually wanted to play the violin before I had polio, and then afterwards, there was no reason not to."

The Mayo Clinic describes polio as a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.

In the U.S., the last case of naturally occurring polio happened in 1979. But despite a concerted global eradication campaign, it continues to affect children and adults in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some African countries.

Perlman, who gained American fame in 1958 when he first appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" at the age of 13, noted that he is making his pitch to wipe out polio during the Ebola scare now gripping the nation.

"The difference is that with Ebola, it is such a devastating disease and there is still no cure. They're still working on vaccines. The fact of the matter with polio, there is a cure, there is a vaccine," he said.

"The amount of cases is relatively small but people don't realize that if we don't really eradicate it completely, it can grow.

"It would be a shame that we are so close to getting rid of it and we just get sidetracked with something else."

Perlman admitted the Ebola virus — which first came to the U.S. when a victim flew from Liberia to Texas, and this week hit New York via an infected doctor who recently returned from Africa — frightens him.

"Of course, absolutely … I can't wait until they actually produce the vaccine. You see it and we have to attack it," he said.

Perlman, who'll give a recital at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City on Dec. 3, has played the world's greatest classical music, sung opera and even done a jazz record with pianist Oscar Peterson.

But the piece that always gets requested wherever he performs is the "Schindler's List" theme from Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning Holocaust movie.

"I'm always amazed how John Williams who wrote the music got the flavor of this and it's one of those pieces that wherever I go, almost the only thing that they ask specifically is for me to play 'Schindler's List,' " he said.

"Wherever it is, whether it's in South America or the Far East or the United States, it doesn't matter. It's an international request."

Perlman, 69, lives in New York City with his wife, Toby, and is the father of five children and distant cousin of comic Howie Mandel. But he thinks often of his birthplace of Tel Aviv, Israel, and believes peace is possible for the Jewish State.
"I am always optimistic because I cannot afford not to be. I always hope there will be something that's positive," Perlman said.

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Itzhak Perlman says the world needs to wipe out the curse of polio once and for all — and the beloved violin virtuoso, stricken with the paralyzing disease since the age of four, says it can be accomplished.
Perlman, polio, vaccine
Friday, 24 October 2014 03:17 PM
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