Polio and Jonas Salk

What was Polio in the 1950's?

Polio is an infectious viral disease that usually occurs where sanitation is poor. It spreads through contact of an infected person's feces or through food, drink, and droplets. Usually, it only causes little effect upon the infected, however; when it attacks the central nervous system, it could lead to paralysis or death. There are three kinds of polioviruses, type 1, 2, and 3. All have the power to cause paralysis and death. In places with poor sanitation, children are infected at a very young age, giving them immunity later in life. Children who live in an area with slightly better hygiene do not become immune and can get the disease if they do not get vaccinated. 85% of children do not even show symptoms.

Polio was first reported in the late 1700's by a British pediatrician. He noted that polio was different from other diseases, but it could have existed since the Egyptian times, as carvings depict the crippling disease. By 1840 a German scientist discovered that polio is contagious. Over the course of the next 50 years, polio struck nations of Europe and North America. Scientists and doctors were stumped on how to treat polio, which left thousands of children dead due to the paralyzation of their respiratory muscles. If the children lived, they were left with weak muscles.

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The girl pictured above suffered from paralysis caused by polio like many others. Here she is looking at her brace and crutches in the mirror.

Image: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/10/16/162670836/wiping-out-polio-how-the-u-s-snuffed-out-a-killer

Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk was born on October 28, 1914 in New York City. In 1934, he graduated from the City College of New York and received his doctorate in medicine from New York University's College of Medicine in 1939. There, he began to develop the polio vaccine that could save the world.

The polio epidemic in America was reaching it's highest point--in 1952, there were more than 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. Children and families were suffering from its effects. The problem with finding a vaccine for polio was the fact that there are 3 types, and the had to be efficient against all 3. In 1952, Salk had created a vaccine he believed could help and organized field experiments to test his vaccine on children. After he reported his findings in 1953, a massive field test was conducted--over 1 million subjects participated in what was the biggest field test ever.

The vaccine was a huge success. By the 1970's it had almost been eradicated in America. Salk's trials reign among the great successes in medicinal history.

Image: http://www.newstalk.com/content/000/images/000091/94133_146_news_hub_89552_677x251.jpg

The Impact of the Decade

Salk's vaccine proved a huge success. Children would be able to believe that they would recover and possibly walk again. Parents no longs had to stress about whether or not their children would be okay. Millions of people lined up along the streets to receive their vaccinations.

This vaccine saved the lives of millions. Polio is still prevalent today, but the vaccine helped save the people all over the world.

Image: http://www.bodybagcatholic.com/images/r/salktime_covercroppedbest.jpg

Connection to Today and Solutions for the Future

Salk's vaccine protected many against polio and eradicated the disease in developed countries such as America, Canada, and England by the late 1970's. However, polio was now striking developing countries. Scientists attempted to create immunization campaigns in the suffering countries using the oral vaccine, however, it did not prevail.

By 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio worldwide, and 1,000 children became paralyzed everyday. In another effort, the World Health Organization launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 2000. The goal was not reached, but polio was used in a more complex way near that time.

The CIA began to use the vaccine in attempt to lure out Osama Bin Laden (who was then hidden in Pakistan), the man behind the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001. This pursuit provided anti-vaccine sentiment in these nations, foiling the plan.

As of March 8, 2016, there are currently 32 reported cases of polio in the developing countries. 3 of the total were in epidemic countries, while 29 were in countries where polio is not a current epidemic.

In the future, the vaccine could be further developed adn polio could be eradicated from the face of the earth.

Image: http://www.vaccineinformation.org/polio/photos.asp


(2009). Poliomyelitis. Compton's by Britannica, v 6.0. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com

Cathy, G. (2015, December 28). Poliomyelitis, 1789-2016. Maclean's, n/a, Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com

(2005). Jonas Salk. Compton's by Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com

Global Polio Eradication Initiative Data and monitoring Polio this week. (2016, March 8). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.polioeradication.org/dataandmonitoring/poliothisweek.aspx