Jonas Salk Licensed The First Polio Vaccine

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Jonas Salk licensed the first polio vaccine in 1955, to the relief of a nation. A nation that had been through two world wars, a great depression, a president stricken with Polio and thousands of deaths from the disease. Beginning with the first outbreak of polio in 1916 the public’s, and scientist’s ideas on polio were limited. From 1916 until the creation of a working vaccine in the 1950s the stigma that went along with the polio disease grew and changed a number of times. This public perception made polio the major disease in the U.S. for almost 40 years while many other diseases were killing more people. The limited knowledge surrounding polio in the beginning, that fact that polio struck while the U.S. was at the height of a near obsession with sanitation, while at the same time associating disease with being unclean, and the nature of the disease to effect only young children at the beginning created and only helped to add to the mystery and panic that surrounded the disease. The public and scientific perception that created the lasting image of polio changed dramatically from the first major U.S. epidemic in 1916 to the ten years from 1945 to 1955 and finally in the period directly following the creation of the polio vaccine in 1955.
The polio virus, also known as poliomyelitis is an intestinal infection that spreads “from person to person through contact with… unwashed hands, shared objects, contaminated food and water.” Symptoms are often mild including headaches and nausea however about 1 in 100 cases can result in the virus invading “the brain stem and the central nervous system” and “destroying the nerve cells” . In other words the disease causes paralysis in 1 in 100 victims.
Polio first hit epidemic proportions ...

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...m the U.S. In 1988 the Pan American Health Organization “announced a campaign to achieve polio eradication in the Americas by 1990… polio would be eradicated from the region four years later.” the magnificent and fear inducing polio virus was finally gone.
The polio virus in the United States was largely a creation of public perception. The first outbreak in 1916 and the circumstances surrounding it caused for the disease to grow in the publics mind and create fear and panic. The subsequent years the fear over the disease would only grow due in part to the creation of grand philanthropic quests as well as the failure of science and the great American government to create a vaccine. When a vaccine was finally created the public relief was something that was never felt before.

“The conquest of polio in the mid 1950s was raised to genuinely iconic status in the West”
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