Polio Vaccine

According to American historian William O’Neill, “Paralytic poliomyelitis (its formal name) was, if not the most serious, easily the most frightening public health problem of the post war era.” During 1916 in the United States 27,363 cases of polio were counted. New York alone had 9,023 cases, of which 2,448 (28%) resulted in death. However by 1952 nearly 58,000 cases of polio were reported an increase of well over double in a mere 36 year period with 3,145 people usually children dying and 21,269 left with disabling paralysis. Cases usually increased during the summer when children were home from school. “The public reaction was to a plague,” noted O’Neill. “Citizens of urban areas were to be terrified every summer when this frightful visitor returned.” Transmitted by fecal matter the attraction of Jews to polio research is understandable, however serendipitous is 3 Jewish virologists Hilary Koprowski, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, and all spontaneously developing a vaccine during the same period.

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