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Sophia Hameed, a senior at Miami Sr. High and member of the Interact Club sponsored by the Rotary Club of Miami, will be joining 42 Rotary Club members from around the world who will be going to Chandigarh, India to help immunize 161 million children under 5 years of age against polio - a disease that still paralyzes and sometimes kills children in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Sophia, who was born in India and came to the US when she was nine, traveled with her family to India two years ago. After seeing the great poverty in her native country, she forged a relationship between a Rotary Club in Nagpur, India, the Rotary Club of Miami and the Interact Club at her school.

Nova Southeastern University's (NSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine will host a national conference on immunization on Jan. 30 and 31. Titled “Protecting Our Next Generation, Ages 0-3, the conference will feature nationally recognized authorities discussing the importance of vaccinating children to prevent treatable infections.

Vaccines available today have made conditions such as chicken pox, measles, polio and bacterial meningitis uncommon. However, the vaccination rates in South Florida are well below the state Health Department's goal of a 90 percent vaccination rate by 2010. According to the latest state health statistics, Miami-Dade County reported an 89 percent immunization rate, while Broward and Palm Beach counties were just 78 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

A panel of health experts at an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) conference in Washington has warned that the avian influenza virus could affect the Caribbean and Latin America.

The experts, from the IDB, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Bank and the United States’ Agency for International Development (USAID), concluded that given the trends in the virus’s behavior, there is a strong risk that human-to-human transmission could occur, creating the possibility of a pandemic situation.