Health & Wellness

Jenna Bush Hager speaks out about her father-in-law's polio

Jenna Bush Hager, 34, recently opened up to PEOPLE magazine about her father-in-law's health struggle after suffering from poliomyelitis (polio), a highly infectious disease caused by a virus.

Monday marked World Polio Day, which was created by Rotary International over a decade ago to honor the birth of Jonas Salk — the man who led the team that developed a vaccine against polio.

TODAY correspondent Bush Hager appears in a public service announcement with UNICEF and Rotary International to bring awareness to polio.

"My father-in-law, my husband's dad, John Hager, has lived with polio for the last four decades. He's been in a wheelchair for over 40 years," Bush Hager told PEOPLE. "...And I just don't want any child to face what he's faced."

According to the World Health Organization, most people infected with polio (90 percent) have no or very mild symptoms that are easy to go unrecognized. There is no cure for polio, just treatment to alleviate the symptoms.

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Polio can be prevented through immunization with the vaccine.

"Of course, my kids got vaccinated — I took them to the doctor when they were babies. I just took Poppy — she's only 1 — so she just had her vaccine, but it's important that all kids have that opportunity," she said. "It's really important that we educate, as moms, the importance of vaccinations. With this vaccine, we can eradicate polio!"

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As for people who say they don't believe in vaccinating their children, Bush Hager begs them to consider mothers in other countries who may not have the same option.

RELATED: Polio-like illness AFM on the rise among children, CDC warns

"...In a lot of countries, I don't think mothers would be debating that," she explained. "I think if they knew their kids could have the same things that we have, as far as medical care...If they knew they had the choice to vaccinate their kids, if they had that opportunity to get that vaccine, I'm pretty sure that in the world's most vulnerable places, these moms wouldn't even think twice."

For more information about what you can do, visit EndPolio.org.

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