History of poliomyelitis

History of poliomyelitis

The history of poliomyelitis (polio) infections extends into prehistory. Although major polio epidemics were unknown before the 20th century,cite journal |author=Trevelyan B, Smallman-Raynor M, Cliff A |title=The Spatial Dynamics of Poliomyelitis in the United States: From Epidemic Emergence to Vaccine-Induced Retreat, 1910-1971| url= http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=16741562 |journal=Ann Assoc Am Geogr |volume=95 |issue=2 |pages=269–293 |year=2005 |pmid=16741562 |doi=10.1111/j.1467-8306.2005.00460.x ] the disease has caused paralysis and death for much of human history. Over millennia, polio survived quietly as an endemic pathogen until the 1880s when major epidemics began to occur in Europe; soon after, widespread epidemics appeared in the United States. By 1910, frequent epidemics became regular events throughout the developed world, primarily in cities during the summer months. At its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, polio would paralyze or kill over half a million people worldwide every year. [cite web | title = What is Polio | publisher = Canadian International Immunization Initiative | url = http://www.immunize.cpha.ca/english/consumer/consrese/pdf/Polio.pdf | pages = p. 3 | accessdate = 2007-05-09]

The fear and the collective response to these epidemics would give rise to extraordinary public reaction and mobilization; spurring the development of new methods to prevent and treat the disease, and revolutionizing medical philanthropy. Although the development of two polio vaccines has eradicated poliomyelitis in all but four countries, the legacy of poliomyelitis remains, in the development of modern rehabilitation therapy, and in the rise of disability rights movements worldwide.

Early history

Ancient Egyptian paintings and carvings depict otherwise healthy people with withered limbs, and children walking with canes at a young age.cite book |author=Daniel TM, Robbins FC (editors) |title=Polio |publisher=University of Rochester Press |location=Rochester, N.Y., USA |year=1997 |pages=5-22 |chapter= A history of poliomyelitis|isbn=1-878822-90-x |oclc= |doi=] It is theorized that the Roman Emperor Claudius was stricken as a child, and this caused him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. [cite book |author=Shell M |title=Stutter |url= http://books.google.com/books?id=F8_rW-DciEEC&dq=Claudius+polio |publisher=Harvard University Press |location=Cambridge |year= |pages=187–188 |chapter= Hamlet's Pause|isbn=0-674-01937-7 |oclc= |doi=] Perhaps the earliest recorded case of poliomyelitis is that of Sir Walter Scott. In 1773 Scott was said to have developed "a severe teething fever which deprived him of the power of his right leg." [cite book |author=Collier, William Douglas |title=A history of English literature, in a series of biographical sketches |url= http://books.google.com/books?id=SfwdAAAAMAAJ&printsec=titlepage&dq=william+francis+collier#PPA400,M1 |publisher=J. Campbell |location=Toronto |year=1872 |pages=400 |isbn=0-665-26955-2 |oclc= |doi=] At the time, polio was not known to medicine. A retrospective diagnosis of polio is considered to be strong due to the detailed account Scott made. [cite journal |author=Cone TE |title=Was Sir Walter Scott's lameness cauded by poliomyelitis? |journal=Pediatrics |volume=51 |issue=1 |pages=35 |year=1973 |pmid=4567583 |doi=]

The symptoms of poliomyelitis have been described by many names. In the early nineteenth century the disease was known variously as: Dental Paralysis, Infantile Spinal Paralysis, Essential Paralysis of Children, Regressive Paralysis, Myelitis of the Anterior Horns, Tephromyelitis (from the Greek "tephros", meaning "ash-gray") and Paralysis of the Morning. [cite book | author = Gould T | title = A Summer Plague: Polio and its Survivors | year = 1995 | publisher = Yale University Press | id = ISBN 0300062923 | chapter = Chapter One | url = http://www.businessweek.com/chapter/gould.htm] In 1789 the first clinical description of poliomyelitis was provided by the British physician Michael Underwood—he refers to polio as “a debility of the lower extremities".cite book | author = Underwood M | title = Debility of the lower extremities. "In:" A treatise on the dieases [sic] of children, with general directions for the management of infants from the birth (1789) | volume = 2 | location = Philadelphia | publisher = Printed by T. Dobson, no. 41, South Second-Street | year = 1793 | pages = pp. 254–6 | series = Early American Imprints, 1st series, no. 26291 (filmed); Copyright 2002 by the American Antiquarian Society | url=http://catalog.mwa.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?v1=1&ti=1,1&Search%5FArg=Underwood%2C%20Michael&Search%5FCode=OPAU&CNT=10&PID=23682&SEQ=20070223225426&SID=1 |accessdate = 2007-02-23 ] The first medical report on poliomyelitis was by Jakob Heine, in 1840; he called the disease "Lähmungszastände der unteren Extremitäten".cite journal |author=Pearce J |title=Poliomyelitis (Heine-Medin disease) |journal=J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry |volume=76 |issue=1 |pages=128 |year=2005 |url=http://jnnp.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/76/1/128 |pmid=15608013 |doi=10.1136/jnnp.2003.028548] Karl Oskar Medin was the first to empirically study a poliomyelitis epidemic in 1890.cite book |author=Sass EJ, Gottfried G, Sorem A (editors) |title=Polio's legacy: an oral history |publisher=University Press of America |location=Washington, D.C |year=1996 |isbn=0-7618-0144-8 |url=http://www.cloudnet.com/~edrbsass/poliotimeline.htm ] This work, and the prior classification by Heine, led to the disease being known as "Heine-Medin disease".


Major polio epidemics were unknown before the 20th century; localized paralytic polio epidemics began to appear in Europe and the United States around 1900. The first report of multiple polio cases was published in 1843 and described an 1841 outbreak in Louisiana. A fifty-year gap occurs before the next U.S. report—a cluster of 26 cases in Boston in 1893. The first recognized U.S. polio epidemic occurred the following year in Vermont with 132 total cases (18 deaths), including several cases in adults. Numerous epidemics of varying magnitude began to appear throughout the country; by 1907 approximately 2,500 cases of poliomyelitis were reported in New York City. [cite journal | author = Sachs B (Chairman, New York Neurological Society) | title = Epidemic poliomyelitis; report on the New York epidemic of 1907 by the Collective investigation committee | date = 1910 | publisher = The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease | accessdate = 2007-05-08]

On Saturday, June 17, 1916 an official announcement of the existence epidemic polio infection was made in Brooklyn, New York. That year, there would be over 27,000 cases and more than 6,000 deaths due to polio in the United States, with over 2,000 deaths in New York City alone.cite journal |author=Melnick J |title=Current status of poliovirus infections | url= http://cmr.asm.org/cgi/reprint/9/3/293 |journal=Clin Microbiol Rev |volume=9 |issue=3 |pages=293–300 |year=1996 |pmid=8809461 |issn=] The names and addresses of individuals with confirmed polio cases were published daily in the press, their houses were identified with placards, and their families were quarantined.cite book | last = Risse | first = GB | coauthors = Fee E, Fox DM (editors) | title = Epidemics and History: Ecological Perspectives. "in" AIDS: The Burden of History. | edition = | publisher = University of California Press, Berkeley | year = 1988 | isbn = 0520063961] The 1916 epidemic caused widespread panic and thousands fled the city to nearby mountain resorts; movie theaters were closed, meetings were canceled, public gatherings were almost nonexistent, and children were warned not to drink from water fountains, and told to avoid amusement parks, swimming pools, and beaches. From 1916 onward, a polio epidemic appeared each summer in at least one part of the country, with the most serious occurring in the 1940s and 1950s.

Prior to the 20th century polio infections were rarely seen in infants before 6 months of age and most cases occurred in children 6 months to 4 years of age.cite web | author = Robertson S | title = Module 6: Poliomyelitis | work = The Immunological Basis for Immunization Series.| publisher = World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland. | url = http://www.who.int/vaccines-documents/DocsPDF-IBI-e/mod6_e.pdf | date = 1993 | accessdate = 2007-05-08] Young children who contract polio generally suffer only mild symptoms, but as a result they become permanently immune to the disease.cite book | author = Yin-Murphy M, Almond JW | title = Picornaviruses: The Enteroviruses: Polioviruses "in:" Baron's Medical Microbiology "(Baron S "et al", eds.)| edition = 4th ed. | publisher = Univ of Texas Medical Branch | year = 1996 | url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?rid=mmed.section.2862 | isbn = 0-9631172-1-1 ] In developed countries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, improvements were being made in community sanitation, including improved sewage disposal and clean water supplies. Better hygiene meant that infants and young children had fewer opportunities to encounter and develop immunity to polio. Exposure to poliovirus was therefore delayed until late childhood or adult life, when it was more likely to take the paralytic form.

In children, paralysis due to polio occurs in 1/1000 cases, while in adults, paralysis occurs in 1/75 cases. [cite journal | author = Gawne AC, Halstead LS| title = Post-polio syndrome: pathophysiology and clinical management | journal = Critical Reviews in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation | year = 1995 | volume = 7 | pages = 147–88 | url = http://www.ott.zynet.co.uk/polio/lincolnshire/library/gawne/ppspandcm-s00.html] By 1950, the peak age incidence of paralytic poliomyelitis in the United States had shifted from infants to children aged 5 to 9 years; about one-third of the cases were reported in persons over 15 years of age.cite book | author = Melnick JL | title = Poliomyelitis. In: Tropical and Geographical Medicine| edition = 2nd ed. | publisher = McGraw-Hill | year =1990 | pages = 558-576 | isbn = 007068328X ] Accordingly, the rate of paralysis and death due to polio infection also increased during this time. In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic would be the worst outbreak in the nation's history. Of the nearly 58,000 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.cite journal |author= Zamula, Evelyn|title=A New Challenge for Former Polio Patients | url= http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/CONSUMER/CON00006.html |journal= FDA Consumer|volume=25 |issue=5 |pages= |year=1991 |issn=]

Historical treatments

In the early 20th century—in the absence of proven treatments—a number of odd and potentially dangerous polio treatments were suggested. In Haven Emerson's "A Monograph on the Epidemic of Poliomyelitis (Infantile Paralysis) in New York City in 1916" [cite book |author=Emerson H |title=A monograph on the epidemic of poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis) |publisher=Arno Press |location=New York |year=1977 |pages= |isbn=0-405-09817-0 |oclc= |doi=] one suggested remedy reads:

Following the 1916 epidemics and having experienced little success in treating polio patients, researchers set out to find new and better treatments for the disease. Between 1917 and the early 1950s several therapies were explored in an effort to prevent deformities including hydrotherapy and electrotherapy. Surgical treatments such as nerve grafting, tendon lengthening, tendon transfers and limb lengthening and shortening, were used extensively.cite book |author=Leboeuf C |title=The late effects of Polio: Information For Health Care Providers. |url= http://www.health.qld.gov.au/polio/| publisher=Commonwealth Department of Community Services and Health |location= |year= 1992|pages= |isbn=1-875412-05-0 |oclc= |doi=] cite book | author = Frauenthal HWA, Van Vliet Manning J| title = Manual of infantile paralysis, with modern methods of treatment. Pathology: p. 79-101 | publisher = Philadelphia Davis | year = 1914| url= http://books.google.com/books?vid=029ZCFMPZ0giNI1KiG6E&id=piyLQnuT-1YC&printsec=titlepage | oclc= 2078290] Patients with residual paralysis were treated with braces and taught to compensate for lost function with the help of callipers, crutches and wheelchairs.

The use of devices such as rigid braces and body casts, which tended to cause muscle atrophy due to the limited movement of the user, were also touted as effective treatments.cite journal |author=Oppewal S |title=Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian nurse, and treatment of poliomyelitis victims |journal=Image J Nurs Sch |volume=29 |issue=1 |pages=83–7 |year=1997 |pmid=9127546 |issn= |doi=10.1111/j.1547-5069.1997.tb01145.x] Massage, passive motion exercises, and vitamin C were also used to treat polio victims. [cite journal | author = Klenner FR | authorlink=Fred R. Klenner | title=The Treatment of Poliomyelitis and Other Virus Diseases with Vitamin C | url= http://www.orthomed.com/polio.htm | journal=Southern Medicine & Surgery | volume=111 | issue=7 | date=July 1949 ] [cite journal | last=Jungeblut | first=Claus Washington | title=Inactivation of poliomyelitis virus by crystalline vitamin C | journal=Journal of Experimental Medicine | date=October 1935 | volume=62 | pages=517–521 | doi=10.1084/jem.62.4.517 ] Most of these treatments proved to be of little therapeutic value. However, several effective supportive measures for the treatment of polio did emerge during this time, the iron lung, an anti-polio antibody serum, and a treatment regimen developed by Sister Elizabeth Kenny.cite journal |author=Hammon W |title=Passive immunization against poliomyelitis |journal=Monogr Ser World Health Organ |volume=26 |issue= |pages=357–70 |year= |pmid=14374581 |issn=]

Iron lung

The first iron lung used in the treatment of polio victims was invented by Philip Drinker, Louis Agassiz Shaw, and James Wilson at Harvard, and tested October 12, 1928 at Children’s Hospital, Boston.cite journal |author=Branson RD|title=A Tribute to John H. Emerson. Jack Emerson: Notes on his life and contributions to respiratory care. |url= http://www.jhemerson.com/pdfs/Branson%20-%20A%20tribute%20to%20John%20H%20Emerson%20(1998).pdf |journal= Respiratory Care|volume=43 |issue=7 |pages=567–71 |year=1998|format=dead link|date=June 2008 – [http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=author%3A+intitle%3AA+Tribute+to+John+H.+Emerson.+Jack+Emerson%3A+Notes+on+his+life+and+contributions+to+respiratory+care.&as_publication=Respiratory+Care&as_ylo=1998&as_yhi=1998&btnG=Search Scholar search] ] The Drinker iron lung was powered by an electric motor attached to two vacuum cleaners, and worked by changing the pressure inside the machine, pulling air in and out of the lungs. The design of the iron lung was subsequently improved by John Haven Emerson in 1931. The Emerson Iron Lung was produced until 1970.cite journal | author = Nelson R | date = 2004 | url =http://www.aarp.org/bulletin/yourhealth/a2004-09-13-borrowed_time.html | title = On Borrowed Time: The last iron lung users face a future without repair service | journal = AARP Bulletin | accessdate = 2007-02-07] Other respiratory aids, such as the “rocking bed" were used in patients with less critical breathingdifficulties.

During the polio epidemics, the iron lung saved many thousands of lives, but the machine was large and cumbersome and the price of each machine was enormous,cite journal |author=Wilson D |title=Braces, wheelchairs, and iron lungs: the paralyzed body and the machinery of rehabilitation in the polio epidemics |journal=J Med Humanit |volume=26 |issue=2-3 |pages=173–90 |year=2005 |pmid=15877198 |issn= |doi=10.1007/s10912-005-2917-z] in the 1930s, an iron lung cost about $1,500 - about the same price as the average home.cite web | author = Staff of the National Museum of American History, Behring Center | title = Whatever Happened to Polio? | work = | url = http://americanhistory.si.edu/polio/howpolio/march.htm| accessdate = 2007-03-09] The cost of running the machine was also prohibitive, as patients were encased in the metal chambers for months, years and sometimes for life, and even with an iron lung, the fatality rate for patients with bulbar polio exceeded 90%.cite journal |author=West J |title=The physiological challenges of the 1952 Copenhagen poliomyelitis epidemic and a renaissance in clinical respiratory physiology | url= http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/99/2/424| journal=J Appl Physiol |volume=99 |issue=2 |pages=424–32 |year=2005 |pmid=16020437 |doi=10.1152/japplphysiol.00184.2005]

These drawbacks led to the development of more modern positive-pressure ventilators and the use of positive-pressure ventilation by tracheostomy. Positive pressure ventilators, were first used to treat bulbar patients in Blegdamshospital, Copenhagen, Denmark during a polio outbreak in 1952, and reduced mortality in bulbar patients from 90% to 20%.cite journal |author=Goldberg A |title=Noninvasive mechanical ventilation at home: building upon the tradition |url= http://www.chestjournal.org/cgi/content/full/121/2/321 |journal=Chest |volume=121 |issue=2 |pages=321–4 |year=2002 |pmid=11834636 |doi=10.1378/chest.121.2.321] The Copenhagen epidemic has been described as the start of intensive care, when large numbers of patients were ventilated by hand ("bagged") by medical students and anyone else on hand.cite paper| author = Wackers G | title = Constructivist Medicine | date = 1994| url =http://www.fdcw.unimaas.nl/personal/WebSitesMWT/Wackers/proefschrift.html#h4 | format = html| accessdate = 2007-02-02]

Antibody serum

In 1950 William Hammon at the University of Pittsburgh isolated serum, containing antibodies against poliovirus, from the blood of polio survivors. The serum, Hammon believed, would prevent the spread of polio and to reduce the severity of disease in polio patients.cite journal |author=Rinaldo C |title=Passive immunization against poliomyelitis: the Hammon gamma globulin field trials, 1951-1953 |journal=Am J Public Health |volume=95 |issue=5 |pages=790–9 |year=2005 |pmid=15855454 |issn=] Between September 1951 and July 1952 nearly 55,000 children were involved in a clinical trial of the anti-polio serum. [cite news |author = |title=Unsung Hero of the War on Polio |url=http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu/imagescontent/publichealthmag/2004_1spring/Unsung-SP04.pdf |work=Public Health Magazine |publisher=University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health |date=2004 |accessdate=2007-05-11] The results of the trial were promising; the serum was shown to be about 80% effective in preventing the development of paralytic poliomyelitis, and protection was shown to last for 5 weeks if given under tightly controlled circumstances. [cite journal |author=Hammon W, Coriell L, Ludwig E, "et al" |title=Evaluation of Red Cross gamma globulin as a prophylactic agent for poliomyelitis. 5. Reanalysis of results based on laboratory-confirmed cases |journal=J Am Med Assoc |volume=156 |issue=1 |pages=21–7 |year=1954 |pmid=13183798 |issn=] The serum was also shown to reduce the severity of the disease in patients that developed polio.

The large-scale use of antibody serum to prevent and treat polio had a number of drawbacks, however, including the observation that the immunity provided by the serum did not last long, and the protection offered by the antibody was incomplete, that reinjection was required during each epidemic outbreak, and that the optimal time frame for administration was unknown. The antibody serum was widely administered, but obtaining the serum was an expensive and time-consuming process, and the focus of the medical community soon shifted to the development of a polio vaccine.cite news |author = Spice B |title=Tireless polio research effort bears fruit and indignation |url=http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05094/482468.stm |work=The Salk vaccine: 50 years later- second of two parts |publisher= Pittsburgh Post-Gazette|date= 2005-04-04 |accessdate= 2007-04-30 ]

Kenny regimen

Early management practices for paralyzed muscles emphasized the need to rest the affected muscles and suggested that the application of splints would prevent tightening of muscle, tendons, ligaments, or skin that would prevent normal movement. Many paralyzed polio patients lay in plaster body casts for months at a time. This prolonged casting often resulted in atrophy of both affected and unaffected muscles.

In 1940, Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian bush nurse, arrived in North America and challenged this approach to treatment. Having treated polio cases in rural Australia between 1928 and 1940, Kenny had improvised a form of physical therapy that - instead of immobilizing afflicted limbs - aimed to relieve pain and spasms in polio patients through the use of hot, moist packs to relieve muscle spasm, and the advocated early activity and exercise to maximize the strength of unaffected muscle fibers. Sister Kenny later settled in Minnesota where she established the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, beginning a world-wide crusade to advocate her system of treatment. Slowly, Kenny’s ideas won acceptance, and by the mid-20th century had become the hallmark for the treatment of paralytic polio. In combination with antispasmodic medications to reduce muscular contractions, Kenny's therapy is still used in the treatment of paralytic poliomyelitis.

Vaccine development

In 1935 Maurice Brodie, a research assistant at New York University, attempted to produce a polio vaccine, procured from virus in ground up monkey spinal cords, and killed by formaldehyde. Brodie first tested the vaccine on himself and several of his assistants. He then gave the vaccine to three thousand children, many developed allergic reactions, but none of the children developed an immunity to polio.cite journal |author=Pearce J |title=Salk and Sabin: poliomyelitis immunisation |url= http://jnnp.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/75/11/1552 |journal=J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry |volume=75 |issue=11 |pages=1552 |year=2004 |pmid=15489385 |doi=10.1136/jnnp.2003.028530] During the late 1940s and early 1950s, a research group, headed by John Enders at the Boston Children's Hospital, successfully cultivated the poliovirus in human tissue. This significant breakthrough ultimately allowed for the development of the polio vaccines. Enders and his colleagues, Thomas H. Weller and Frederick C. Robbins, were recognized for their labors with the Nobel Prize in 1954.cite web | title=The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1954 | publisher=The Nobel Foundation | url=http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1954/ | accessdate=2007-01-29]

Two vaccines are used throughout the world to combat polio. The first was developed by Jonas Salk, first tested in 1952, and announced to the world by Salk on April 12, 1955. The Salk vaccine, or "inactivated poliovirus vaccine" (IPV), consists of an injected dose of killed poliovirus. In 1954, the vaccine was tested for its ability to prevent polio; the field trials involving the Salk vaccine would grow to be the largest medical experiment in history. Immediately following licensing, vaccination campaigns were launched, by 1957, following mass immunizations promoted by the March of Dimes the annual number of polio cases in the United States would be dramatically reduced, from a peak of nearly 58,000 cases, to just 5,600 cases.

Eight years after Salk's success, Albert Sabin developed an "oral polio vaccine" (OPV) using live but weakened ("") virus. [cite journal |author=Sabin A, Ramos-Alvarez M, Alvarez-Amezquita J, "et al" |title=Live, orally given poliovirus vaccine. Effects of rapid mass immunization on population under conditions of massive enteric infection with other viruses |journal=JAMA |volume=173 |issue= |pages=1521–6 |year=1960 |pmid=14440553] Human trials of Sabin's vaccine began in 1957 and it was licensed in 1962. Following the development of oral polio vaccine, a second wave of mass immunizations would lead to a further decline in the number of cases: by 1961, only 161 cases were recorded in the United States.cite journal |author=Hinman A |title=Landmark perspective: Mass vaccination against polio |journal=JAMA |volume=251 |issue=22 |pages=2994–6 |year=1984 |pmid=6371280 |doi=10.1001/jama.251.22.2994] The last cases of paralytic poliomyelitis caused by endemic transmission of poliovirus in the United States were in 1979, when an outbreak occurred among the Amish in several Midwestern states. [cite journal |author= |title=Follow-up on poliomyelitis--United States, Canada, Netherlands. 1979 |url= http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00050435.htm| journal=MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. |volume=46 |issue=50 |pages=1195–9 |year=1997 |pmid=9414151]


Early in the 20th century polio would become the world's most feared disease. The disease hit without warning, tended to strike white, affluent individuals, required long quarantine periods during which parents were separated from children: it was impossible to tell who would get the disease and who would be spared. The consequences of the disease left polio victims marked for life, leaving behind vivid images of wheelchairs, crutches, leg braces, breathing devices, and deformed limbs. However, polio changed not only the lives of those who survived it, but also affected profound cultural changes: the emergence of grassroots fund-raising campaigns that would revolutionize medical philanthropy, the rise of rehabilitation therapy and, through campaigns for the social and civil rights of the disabled, polio survivors helped to spur the modern disability rights movement.


In 1921 Franklin D. Roosevelt became totally and permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Although the paralysis (whether from poliomyelitis, as diagnosed at the time, or from Guillain-Barré syndrome) had no cure at the time, Roosevelt, who had planned a life in politics, refused to accept the limitations of his disease. He tried a wide range of therapies, including hydrotherapy in Warm Springs, Georgia (See below). In 1938 Roosevelt helped to found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes), that raised money for the rehabilitation of victims of paralytic polio, and was instrumental in funding the development of polio vaccines. The March of Dimes changed the way it approached fund-raising. Rather than soliciting large contributions from a few wealthy individuals, the March of Dimes sought small donations from millions of individuals. Its hugely successful fund-raising campaigns collected hundreds of millions of dollars - more than all of the U.S. charities at the time combined (with the exception of the Red Cross).cite book |author=Oshinsky DM|title=Polio: an American story |publisher=Oxford University Press |location=Oxford [Oxfordshire] |year=2005 |pages= |isbn=0-19-515294-8 |oclc= |doi=] By 1955 the March of Dimes had invested $25.5 million in research;cite web | title = FDR and Polio: Public Life, Private Pain | publisher = Howard Hughes Medical Institute | url = http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/disease/polio/polio2.html | accessdate = 2007-03-09] funding both Jonas Salk’s and Albert Sabin’s vaccine development; the 1954–55 field trial of vaccine, and supplies of free vaccine for thousands of children.

In truth, however poliomyelitis was never the monstrous killer it was portrayed as in the media, not even at its height during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1952 during the worst recorded epidemic, 3,145 people, including 1,873 children, in the United States died from polio.cite book | author = Dunn HL | title = Vital Statistics of the United States (1952): Volume II, Mortality Data | publisher = United States Government Printing Office | year = 1955 | pages = – | url= http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsus/VSUS_1952_2.pdf (PDF)] That same year over 200,000 people (including 4,000 children) died of cancer and 20,000 (including 1,500 children) died of tuberculosis. According to David Oshinsky’s book "Polio: An American Story": “There is evidence that the March of Dimes over-hyped polio, and promoted an image of immediately curable polio victims, which was not true. The March of Dimes refused to partner with other charity organizations like the United Way.”

Rehabilitation therapy

Prior to the polio scares of the 20th century, most rehabilitation therapy was focused on treating injured soldiers returning from war. The crippling effects of polio lead to heightened awareness and public support of physical rehabilitation, and in response a number of rehabilitation centers specifically aimed at treating polio patients were opened, with the task of restoring and building the remaining strength of polio victims and teaching new, compensatory skills to large numbers of newly paralyzed individuals.

In 1926 Franklin Roosevelt, convinced of the benefits of hydrotherapy, bought a resort at Warm Springs, Georgia, where he founded the first modern rehabilitation center for treatment of polio patients which still operates as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.cite journal | author = Gallagher HG | year = 2002 | url = http://www.ralphmag.org/BR/gallagher-russia1.html | title = Disability Rights And Russia (speech) | journal = The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities | volume = XXXII | number = 1 | accessdate = 2007-03-15]

The cost of polio rehabilitation was often more than the average family could afford, and more than 80% of the nation’s polio patients would receive funding through the March of Dimes. Some families also received support through philanthropic organizations such as the Shrine fraternity, which established a network of pediatric hospitals in 1919, the Shriners Hospitals for Children, to provide care free of charge for children with polio. [cite news | author = Rackl L | date = 2006-06-05 | url = http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4155/is_20060605/ai_n16454654 | title = Hospital marks 80 years of treating kids for free | work = Chicago Sun-Times | accessdate = 2007-03-09]

Disability rights movement

As thousands of polio survivors with varying degrees of paralysis left the rehabilitation hospitals and went home, to school and to work, many were frustrated by a lack of accessibility and discrimination they experienced in their communities. In the early 20th century the use of a wheelchair at home or out in public was a daunting prospect as no public transportation system accommodated wheelchairs and most public buildings including schools, were inaccessible to those with disabilities. Many children left disabled by polio were forced to attend separate institutions for "crippled children" or had be carried up and down stairs.

As people who had been paralyzed by polio matured, they began to demand the right to participate in the mainstream of society. Polio survivors were often in the forefront of the disability rights movement that emerged in the United States during the 1970s, and pushed legislation such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which protected qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. [cite book |author=Morris RB, Morris JB (editorss)|title=Encyclopedia of American History |publisher=HarperCollins |location=New York |year=1996 |pages= |isbn=0-06-270055-3 |oclc= |doi=] Other political movements lead by polio survivors include the Independent Living and Universal design movements of the 1960s and 1970s. [cite news | author = Scalise K | year = 1998 | url = http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/98legacy/02_23_98a.html | title = New collection of original documents and histories unveils disability rights movement | work = University of California at Berkeley News Release | accessdate = 2007-03-15]

Today, polio survivors are one of the largest disabled groups in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 10 to 20 million polio survivors worldwide.cite web | url = http://www.marchofdimes.com/aboutus/791_1718.asp | title = After Effects of Polio Can Harm Survivors 40 Years Later | year = 2001 | work = March of Dimes: News Desk | accessdate = 2007-03-15] In 1977, the National Health Interview Survey reported that there were 254,000 persons living in the United States who had been paralyzed by polio. [cite journal |author=Frick N, Bruno R |title=Post-polio sequelae: physiological and psychological overview |journal=Rehabil Lit |volume=47 |issue=5-6 |pages=106–11 |year= |pmid=3749588 |issn=] According to local polio support groups and doctors, some 40,000 polio survivors with varying degrees of paralysis live in Germany, 30,000 in Japan, 24,000 in France, 16,000 in Australia, 12,000 in Canada and 12,000 in the United Kingdom.

ee also

* List of polio survivors
* Polio Hall of Fame
* Cutter Laboratories
* Hickory, NC

Notes and references

Further reading

* (A memoir by a childhood survivor of polio.)
* (Awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for history.)
* (Classic history.)
* (Memoir, history, medicine.)
* A history of polio from accounts written by survivors. (Limited preview available from Google Books.)

External links

* [http://americanhistory.si.edu/polio/index.htm What ever happened to Polio?] An exhibit from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
* [http://www.healthheritageresearch.com/MCPlague.html The Middle-Class Plague: Epidemic Polio and the Canadian State.]
* [http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-75-363/science_technology/polio/ CBC Digital Archives - Polio: Combating the Crippler] Video and Radio reports related to Polio.
* [http://rnzcgp.org.nz/news/nzfp/June1999/orrc.htm Poliovirus in New Zealand 1915-1997]
* [http://www.scq.ubc.ca/?p=45 Polio: A Virus' Struggle] - an amusing yet educational graphic novella from the Science Creative Quarterly (in pdf format).

Leave a calling card to share knowledge with other people with an interest in:
;People and polio:
* [http://www.paho.org/English/DPI/Number2_article8.htm Fermín: Making Polio History] An article about Luis Fermín Tenorio Cortez, the last case of polio reported in the Americas.
* [http://www.johnprestwich.btinternet.co.uk/40-years-a-layabout.htm A UK Polio survivor] - An account of John Prestwich who lived 50 years in an iron lung.
* [http://www.post-polio.org/ Post-Polio Health International]

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