May 27, 2020
This is not a picture of the Covid-19 virus. This is a picture of the polio virus. I was born in December of 1944, and I remember living through this global epidemic. There were things on television about it and my parents talked about it. It was very scary and especially when summer came, because it was more contagious then. I remember seeing pictures of kids with crutches and wheelchairs. The scariest were the ones of people in Iron Lungs. Huge metal machines that covered everything but the patient's head. I was such a scary thing to see as a child but far worse for the person who was the patient.
I was very young when polio was at its height but I remember vividly getting the polio vaccination. I was among the first to get the newly developed vaccination. I lived in Louisville, Kentucky then and it was a really hot summer day when we went to some large building to be vaccinated. There must have been hundreds of adults there with even more children. I was afraid and anxious that day. Getting shots when you are a kid can be scary and this one was a brand new and that made it even more scary. I think my mom may have been anxious as well. When leaving the building all the anxiety along with the heat caused me to nearly faint. I remember sitting on a bench with my mom and my sister and a policeman coming to my aid. A day etched in my nine year-old brain.
In 1963 I had a friend who had been crippled by polio when he was young. He walked with crutches for a long time getting the use of his legs again. When he told me it jarred me a little. I'd never met anyone who'd actually had the disease. It had a stigma attached to it so people who'd had it didn't want to talk about it. We are seeing this now with people who've had the new coronavirus, where others are afraid to be around them. It was a very scary time in our history.
I read an article by the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC before writing today. I was too young to know any real details about the polio epidemic, so I wanted to know more facts. According to the CDC, In the late 1940's polio outbreaks increased in frequency and size, crippling more than 35,000 each year. Parents were afraid to let their children go outside, Travel and commerce between affect cities were sometimes ristricted. Public health officials imposed quarantines, (used to separate and rstrict the movement of well people who many have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if the become ill) in homes and towns where polio cases were diagnosed.
Thanks to the polio vaccine and dedicated doctors and parents, polio was finally elimated in 2015. However in 2019, according to the CDC, there has been a number of cases in the Middle East of what they call Wild Polio Virus. They attribute this to two things; the worldwide survailance and that children were not being vaccinated. To me, this stresses the fact that our children need the vaccination. It may not be in our country but it only takes one person from another country to stare another epidemic if we do not continue to vaccinate for this crippling and killer virus.
Why the heck am I writing about Polio if it's all but gone? I believe you've already figured that out. We are once again experiencing all the things that were going on when I was a little girl. It wasn't called a pandemic but it was a horrible epidemic that struck fear into everyone. Many people did die and thousands were crippled, but we did survive. We will also survive the New Coronavirus. There will be deaths and other losses but we will survive. Just like Dr. Jonal Salk, brillliant scientists are working to find the vaccine that will erridacate Covid-19. The world continues to struggle with the effects of the coronavirus, but it will not last forever. We will look back to this time as I do the time of the polio epidemic. We still have much to learn about exactly how we can live our lives in this crazy time, but it will come.
Keep hopeful and look forward to the day when you, like me as a 9 year-old, will be ther first to get the Covid-19 vaccination.
Keep safe and remember that this will not last forever.