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Rotary to raise money at Arby’s to help eliminate crippling disease

November 15, 2016 GMT

One local group is working to raise money and awareness about how to help eradicate polio in the world.

Rotary International has been working for three decades to help end polio. When they began, 250,000 children were afflicted each year. Many of these children were from lower-income countries with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water. Both vectors contributed to the spread of the disease.

On Saturday, Nov. 19, from 6-10 a.m., Rotary will be teaming up with Arby’s for a “Purple Pancakes for Polio” fundraiser.

“Rumors are there will be a purple gorilla on that day,” said Zac Karpf, president of the Scottsbluff/Gering Rotary Club. “I’m not sure who it will be, which means it’s probably going to be me.”

Donations made will be matched two for one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“The foundation has been a huge supporter for the last 10 years,” Karpf said.

Rotary has worked with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, local health workers and national governments to eradicate polio. In 2015, the number of cases had dropped to 74. In 2016, there have been 44 cases of wild polio so far and 52 cases in the last 12 months.

“We’re trying to raise awareness that there is still primarily children impacted by polio,” Karpf said.

When the disease is finally gone, it will be only the second disease, after smallpox, eliminated by mankind.

“We are so close to eradicating it from the face of the Earth,” Karpf said. “Only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are left in the world with polio cases.”

Getting everyone vaccinated in those areas of the world is more difficult than in western countries.

“It’s those last countries that are the hardest to get to because they aren’t very friendly to us or western medicine and they are sometimes suspicious,” he said. There have also been four cases in July and August in Nigeria where Wild Poliovirus type 1 appeared. They were the first cases on the continent of Africa since July 2014. The cases were in a hard to reach region.

“This is an instance where polio hasn’t been in the U.S. for many years,” he said. “But we’re still fighting it on the other side of the world.”

Although the disease is close to being eradicated, there is more work to be done. The Scottsbluff/Gering Rotary Club is continuing to increase awareness and gather funding to end the disease.

“Awareness is incredibly important, because there are many people any more who don’t know polio still exists in parts of the world,” said Barb Redder, district governor, at the Noon Rotary Club meeting on Nov. 8.

Polio makes it difficult for people to walk. Most are unable to ever walk again. Karpf said if everyone can work together to eradicate a disease that afflicts the most vulnerable in society, it’s a worthy cause.

“Our goal is to make it so no child ever has to endure that again,” he said.

Pancakes are $5. You don’t have to eat any pancakes, but you can stop by and enjoy the fun and make a donation on Saturday or contact Zac Karpf at Platte Valley Bank in Scottsbluff.