Polio, The Sleeping Virus Has Awaken

It is hard to believe that polio, which has been eradicated in this country since 1979, has now been discovered in New York. A twenty year old man in Rockland County, there has been diagnosed with Poliomyelitis which is a poliovirus that effects the nervous system and spinal cord. This disease multiplies mainly in the intestines spreading mostly by people in this day and age if you can believe it, who still don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. The disease is very highly contagious.

The Rockland County unvaccinated man became ill in June after contacting polio. Presently, he has difficulty walking on his own. Earlier in the spring, he had traveled to Poland and Hungry. In Rockland County, which has a large Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, there are many inhabitants who are not vaccinated. Only sixty percent have done so.

City officials have detected the virus in the local wastewater in Rockland County. The polio virus there is linked to the same virus found in raw sewage in both Jerusalem and London. Officials in each community are recommending that individuals receive their polio vaccinations especially children who are likely to get the disease without this protection. There is no cure for polio; the only cure is vaccination. Five percent of victims will become paralyzed from the disease. Polio is very serious causing death besides illness.

Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955 discovered the polio vaccine for a terrible disease that had been around for years. We should be thankful that it is a simple solution to a life altering event. We know President Franklin Roosevelt contacted polio and was paralyzed from the waist down while he served our nation during the Depression and World War II.

Without the polio vaccine in 1952 in our country, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus. Thousands became paralyzed and 3,000 children died in that year alone. I had a cousin in Detroit, Michigan who contacted polio. Seeing photographs of him when he was very young, his arms were shriveled and he never developed strength in his arms or shoulders. Being a child during this frightful time, I remember we were not allowed to play in the playground or go to a park or swimming pool or drink out of a drinking fountain. Our mothers were so very fearful that we may become one of the awful statistics. What a blessing it was when the polio vaccine was invented by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1953 who had his family receive the shots first to demonstrate how safe they are. It is 99 percent effective. In 1961, Dr. Albert Sabin discovered an oral polio vaccine which is highly effective as well and is used all over the world.

In my historical novel, The Adventures of Francie Fitzgerald by Victoria Kamar Olivett, we look to Dr. Louis Pasteur and his life saving vaccine which saved the Newark boys after they had been attacked by a rabid dog. How foolish would it be, if one were bitten by a rabid animal today and did not go immediately to the hospital for the life saving serum that can be administered after an attack. Children should receive all their shots to protect them from terrible diseases such as diphtheria and polio. We know that these vaccines have been proven safe and effective. My cousin David may still be alive today if he had just listened to his healthcare professionals and received his Covid vaccinations. It is the unvaccinated that become very ill from this disease as well.

We need to go forward not backward with our healthcare especially for our very young. As Dr. Louis Pasteur said, “Scientific discovery knows no country. Its knowledge is for humanity, and it is the torch which illuminates the world.”

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