Cranbrook is doing its part to recognize World Polio Day, which falls on Friday, Oct. 24, as the Sunrise Rotary Club gears up to fundraise for vaccinations overseas.
Though Friday is the official day, the club will be present at the Kootenay Ice game next Tuesday, Oct. 28th, during a contest against the Prince Albert Raiders to show off an iron lung and raise money for overseas vaccination.
The club will have a presence at the game with the option to make donations and the chance to see the iron lung—a medical device that enables a person to breathe when normal muscle control has been lost or the work of breathing exceeds the person’s ability.
“Five years ago, our club, Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary, refurbished an iron lung that was used to treat polio victims, so that’s one of the pieces that we use for awareness,” said Frank Vanden Broek, a rotary member. “The other thing that we’re going to be doing, is when people make a donation, we’re going to mark their pinky with purple.
“That’s something that they do when they’re doing polio vaccines worldwide, is once a child has been vaccinated, they mark their pinky, so they know that the child has been done.”
For a minimum donation, people will also be able to climb inside the iron lung.
Poliomyelitis, more commonly known as polio, is an acute, viral infection disease that spreads through water or fecal contamination that causes inflammation of the grey matter in the spinal cord that can extend to the brainstem and can cause apnea.
The vaccination effort holds a special place for Vanden Broek, who traveled to Pakistan with his wife in February 2013 to participate in an immunization campaign for two weeks.
They were based out of Lahore, where they went to places like local schools for the to administer vaccinations.
“We did a bunch of vaccinations, went to the schools and did vaccinations, so it was pretty interesting to see,” said Vanden Broek.
“We also saw what they call the ‘draggers,’ that’s polio victims. Basically, for a lot of Pakistani, if you get polio, that’s it, you’re useless, you’re family gives up on you. These are people—imagine driving down the strip here—and they’re just dragging themselves down the street.”
Polio, which has a propensity to affect children, became a pandemic in the first half of the 20th century, until a vaccine was developed in the late 1950s. Now, the virus is all but eradicated.
However, there are still cases that are starting to flare up, mostly in war-torn regions of Africa and Asia. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been able to track specific cases, noting a rise from 39 to 206 from this time last year.
Vanden Broek attributes the rise in polio cases due to pushback from Pakistani authorities, who are wary about the intentions of the vaccination campaigns, especially after the American CIA admitted to using such means for intelligence-gathering purposes.
“It’s a couple things,” Vanden Broek continued. “One of them is an outright refusal to allow the vaccinators in, shooting them, whatever. A lot of those areas, the police and the army are afraid to go into.
“Also, you still have a lot of the uneducated people there that talk about, you know, it’s a plot by the West to sterilize their kids.”
According to Vanden Broek, polio has been largely contained to only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, however, a few cases have appeared in Syria due to the flood of refugees fleeing the violence between the government and Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL).
For more information on the progress against polio, visit www.polioeradication.org.