By: Ethan Benedict

What is Polio

Poliomyelitis or Polio, is a viral infection only found in humans, which damages the spinal cord and weakens the muscles by ruining the nervous system. Polio is spread by the ingestion of infected fecal matter. This route is called the oral-fecal route. The disease is mostly found in third world countries where there is little to no water sanitation. Polio can also transmitted through direct contact


Victims of Polio suffer from many symptoms, such as Fever which is usually the first symptom; vomiting; sore throat; headache; fatigue; pain or stiffness in the back, legs, neck, and the arms; muscle weakness; or Meningitis which can cause many other problems. It may take up to six weeks before a patient shows any signs, but during that time, they are still very contagious. About 90-95% of those who are infected show symptoms, and 0.5% of those cases result in complete loss of muscle function.

Prevention and treatment

To prevent this disease, the C.D.C or Center for Disease Control, wants all travelers or citizens coming from or to highly infected countries, to get a vaccine booster in order to try and stop the spread of the disease. Doctors could also give patients, usually around the age of six, an I.P.V. (Inactivated Polio-virus Vaccine) injection. Most of the time, children will have to receive about four injections. This kind of prevention proves effective 99% of the time, and may cause pain or redness. Adults rarely receive the vaccination. This is because for those who hadn't already contracted the disease, most had have built up an immunity by the time they reached adulthood. Though the vaccine is usually effective, for those who do get Polio, ventilation machines, healthier diets, physical therapy, bed rest, and pain revilers, may be able to treat the disease


Since 1988, which had over 350,000 reported cases, the amount of Polio victims has gone down by 99% so that in 2013 there were only 416 cases. This is because of a world wide effort to to stop Polio disease from spreading. The only countries that that aren't helping the cause, are Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. These countries also aren't currently using the vaccine to treat patients.


Polio has been around for much longer than scientist first thought. Evidence of Polio have even been found in ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Before the many major outbreaks in Europe, Polio usually stayed in one general location.


  • 1771- The first recorded case of Polio shows up in Edinburgh, Scotland. The disease unfortunately was contracted by Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish author.
  • 1789- A doctor in England named Michael Underwood notes that Polio most commonly shows up in large cites like London (which at the time, had no plumbing) rather than rural areas in the country.
  • 1800's- Many doctors become concerned by the abundant amount of new cases they kept getting, so they decided to look into the unnamed infection. One of the doctors, Jacob von Heine, thought that since one of the first symptoms was fever, it was some sort of contagious virus, because because it didn't began in the body inside the body, like other diseases. Heine thought that it could be treated by exercising and better hygiene
  • 1887- Karl Oskar Medin begins work in the research of the now known disease
  • 6/17/1894- The first out break in the United states. Vermont reported 132 cases of permanent paralysis.
  • 1905- After several outbreaks in Sweden, a physician by the name of Ivar Wickman, discovers that Polio is a contagious disease. He also discovered that sometimes, even if you have the disease, you may still not show any signs.
  • 1908- Medical Doctors, Erwin Popper and Karl Landsteiner discover that Polio is a infectious virus.
  • 1910- At the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City, a pathologist named Simon Flexner begins to look into finding a cure for Polio. Flexner found that the same antibodies showing up in monkeys also showed up in humans. He then proceeded to experiment. soon he discovered by using the antibodies against the virus, he could neutralize it. Simon Flexner used this information to try to find a cure.

  • 6/17/1916- During an outbreak in New York City which was coming from Brooklyn, Doctors reported 9,000 cases of polio and 2,300 deaths. This was from New York City alone, in 1916, 6,000 deaths were reported.
  • 8/8/1921- Franklin Delano Roosevelt falls ill with Polio.
  • 1926- FDR founds a rehabilitation center for Polio victims-NFIP
  • 1929- The Iron Lungs are invented in order to support breathing to those whose diaphragms, or any other muscle which helps with breathing, have been left paralyzed due to Polio.
  • 1931- Frank M. Burnet, an Australian researcher, and Jean Macnamara started to experiment on monkeys by injecting them with the the Polio disease. they all reacted, but differently than humans did. this meant that there are several different kinds of Polio, which also meant that the researchers would have to come up with a vaccine to cure all of them.
  • 1935- The first ever Polio vaccines are tested. the first by a man named Maurice Brodie from New York University and the second by John Kolmer. Both trials ended poorly and gave negative results. most test subjects died, were paralyzed or had allergic reactions to the killed poliovirus vaccine
  • 1963- Scientist begin to grow the poliovirus (RNA Genome+Protein capsid) in human nervous tissue.
  • 1938- FDR starts the March of Dimes, a fundraiser for the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis and other organizations trying to end Polio. Millions of dollars worth of dimes were raised.
  • 1940- An Australian nun named sister Elizabeth Kenny comes to the United States to help fight against Polio. Sister Elizebeth comes up with new ideas and methods to help cure the disease.
  • 1941- scientist prove Flexnors theory that the polio virus enters through the nasal cavity. There was evidence of the virus in the digestive system, implying that it could also travel through the mouth.
  • 1951- NFIP begins to use Kenny's methods to treat the disease.
  • 1952- Basil O'conor, a lawyer who is helping FDR with his fight against Polio, hires a medical researcher named Jonas Salk, to find a vaccine
  • 1954- Salk developed the first ever Polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh, and gave it to over two million children.
  • 1962- an American researcher named Albert Sabins develops the first oral polio vaccine or O.P.V. which then begins to be used by doctors.
  • 1985- Canada gives $25 million to help developing countries receive immunizations
  • 1986- Canada gives $10 million to Francophonie, an international organization which helps countries where French is the first language. that year, Canada gives another $8 million to Frencophonie.
  • 1999- The number of cases only reached 5,000. this was due to a worldwide effort to stop Poliomyelitis.