Epidemic and Pandemic are words that most people in the United States use to associate with past historical events. Unfortunately, many of us now realize that these words are a reality in the present and the future. Our knowledge of contagious diseases has increased over the past month. We are now more familiar with terms like viruses, vaccines, and pandemics. Now we are able to differentiate between the various flu pandemics that took millions of lives. Some are surprised by the number of deaths from the HIV/AIDS pandemic that took place in the 1980s. One American epidemic, polio, seems “tame” when compared to the numbers of deaths from the Corona virus. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, polio emerged as an epidemic in the United States. During the late 1940s to the early 1950s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that polio paralyzed around 35,000 people each year. The highest amount of polio deaths recorded was 3,145 in 1952. The media coverage was intense and Americans were extremely fearful. “A 1952 survey revealed that Americans feared only nuclear annihilation more than polio.” A cure was found by a team of researchers led by Jonas Salk, but like most scientific discoveries, there were a lot of researchers whose names are lost in history.
I would like to recommend a documentary, The Polio Crusade directed by Sarah Colt. It is interesting to look back at America in the 1950s and compare and contrast how our country is handling the virus of 2020.