Honors World History: The Effect Of The Polio Epidemic Of U.S. Medical Advancement

872 words - 4 pages

Sixty-five years ago, the US was facing the brunt of one of the most feared epidemics of the 20th century. Polio had been lingering in the region since its discovery in 1894, but was now running full throttle. This was the beginning marker of an era that changed the face of medicine and propelled the U.S. forward as the worldwide leader in not only medicine, but also innovative pediatric medical care. In the early 1950s frightened parents quarantined their families and entire towns were put on lockdown for fear of transmission of the airborne pathogen. The nation scrambled as 58,000 cases swept through taking with them the lives of 3,145.
Polio eventually phased out from the development of an effective vaccine the late ‘60s and was officially eradicated from the United States in 1994. By the time it was pushed out of the Americas, Polio had swelled to over 350,000 recorded cases. Europe and America had always been on the developmental forefront, but prior to the Polio vaccination’s discovery, vaccines had only been created for mortality driven epidemics such as cholera, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and diphtheria. All of the outbreaks had devastated large masses, and vaccines were created out of fear of further destruction. This way of thinking was challenged after Polio. Soon there was planning for the future, and there was work being done to halt deadly diseases. Protection against less harmful but just as significant viral infections were developing. These viral infections include the various strains of influenza we still see today. We started out with a significant advantage over other people and have only grown on it. Our superior technology, research, and access to information have helped us land to where we are today.
Another great inequality that was furthered by the advancement of vaccinations was children’s research. The United States is a world medical powerhouse for their research and technological innovations in pediatrics. Each year hundreds of international patients come from around the world to receive life-changing procedures on U.S. soil, and shortly after the creation of the Polio vaccination their focus shifted. Instead of only targeting epidemics that largely affected adults, they went to the root of the problem. By creating vaccines for infants and small children they were expanding the lifespans of our most vulnerable. This brings me to my next point. We, as Americans have on average an 80 year life span, while the majority of third world countries face only 60 years maximum. The United States is consistently commencing new medical studies to better and extend the lives of...

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