Paralysis Epidemic Of The 1950s: Poliomyelitis

1195 words - 5 pages

Poliomyelitis was declared an epidemic in the early 1950s in the United States. It caused primarily children and young adults to develop paralysis, led to social stigma around being crippled. To this day there is still no cure for this disease, poliomyelitis can only be prevented with vaccination.
Poliomyelitis is a virus that infects the nerves of the spinal cord, and brain which leads to paralysis and or death (Piddock, 2004). Poliomyelitis is best known today as Polio, and Infantile Paralysis. Tonsillectomy polio would take over the lymph nodes in order to spread the infection throughout the body, leading to muscle paralysis in the limbs, and in some cases respiratory failure. Bulbar polio was a much more severe form, it affected the top of the spinal cord which caused paralysis and inability to swallow fluids (Rifkind, 2005). Polio was transmitted through ingesting materials contaminated by the virus found in feces. Children would play in public swimming pools, and ingest the contaminated water which lead to infection (Piddock, 2004). After the person ingested the virus, it would travel their intestinal tract, and eventually compromise their lymph nodes, making them unable to fight off the virus. Symptoms were like those of the flu, such as fever, headache, and upset stomach. The minority of people were able to let the virus run its course and it would be passed through their feces like any other virus. Others weren’t so lucky, those with compromised immune systems were unable to fight off the virus, the lymph nodes would fail to protect the nervous system causing paralysis once it reached the spinal cord (Piddock, 2004). Poliomyelitis has since then been eliminated in the United States because of the polio vaccine that is given to newborn children.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921, he was able to get full function of his upper body back by doing physical therapy, and twelve years he became the 32nd President of the United States (NMAH, 2005). Polio was a disease that every person feared and National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was helped raise awareness and money to combat this disease. The majority of those diagnosed with polio were treated the same, no matter what income they had because they were all sick with the same disease. Franklin Roosevelt went to Warm Springs, Georgia for his hydro-therapy, this place was only for white patients(NMAH, 2005). He later bought this property, and made it available to more people who lived with polio. In 1933, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis funded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama so that black patients could get rehabilitation therapy because they weren’t allowed into Warm Springs (NMAH, 2005). Alice D. Arbo, a lower-middle class woman from Winslow, Maine was diagnosed with tonsillectomy polio in 1952 at twenty-three years old. Alice went to Hyde Memorial Home, a rehabilitation facility for the crippled in Bath, Maine. She received similar treatments to...

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