20 April 2018

100 years of polio in the U.S.

Quite a remarkable graph; the Salk vaccine was developed in 1952, tested in 1953-54, then used widely.

I was a "participant" in that epidemic of 1952.  My mother used to tell of me crying through one night with muscle cramps; I have no memory of that, but I do remember waking up the next morning, trying to stand by the bed, and falling to the floor because both legs were paralyzed.  After that followed a series of adventures in a Sister Kenny facility in Minneapolis and in later years the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, all of which undoubtedly molded me into the person I am today.

Graph from a superb webpage on polio statistics at Our World in Data - where you can find other pages on other health-related issues (smoking, suicide, cancer, HIV, malaria, etc).

Note - the embed is a screencap; the graph is interactive at the website.


  1. Just curious,is that sharp uptick due to "vaccine-related" cases? Seems we have a composite number. I also wonder how forthright we were about cases caused by vaccines; then or later. Not taking an anti-vaccine position. Just considering how obfuscation erodes public trust and then leads to irrational notions of risk. That is, don't trust em; they lied last time. Or, am I way out to lunch? Obviously, I'm too lazy to do the research.

    1. Obviously.

      The downtick is caused by the vaccine. In 1952 the vaccine was developed in a laboratory. It was field-tested on small groups the next year or two.

      But thank you for drawing my attention to the fact that I left out the source link (inserted now), where you can scroll down the page to the section on "Vaccine-induced polio" (it's real, and it's been quantified), peaking in 2009 at 180 cases worldwide.

    2. VIP or vaccine-induced polio is very real, and largely a problem from the oral version of the vaccine, which is given in some areas but was removed from use in the Americas and elsewhere due to the number of VIP cases. There is an entire plan established by the WHO to phase out polio vaccines so that VIP is considered in the plan (and some strains have already been removed from the vaccine program)

      Interesting fact that few people believe: about 90% of polio infections are subclinical, asymptomatic or induce only mild flu-like symptoms.

    3. For those who investigate beyond the pamphlet at the dr office, vaccine induced polio is quite openly discussed and experts are forthright, aware, and responding to them. But certainly for the average person, the possibility is something they are unaware of and which most general physicians will say cannot happen.

  2. A guy I work with always walked with a cane. Recently I found out he spent 3 weeks in an iron lung when he was young, he got polio in 1950.

  3. I was a more fortunate participant: one of the children who received the test vaccine. My parents (a public health nurse and a pathologist) were somewhat concerned about the risk of either VIP or (more likely) ineffectiveness. But they knew several people who had been disabled by polio, and felt the risk was worth it.

  4. My Dad was part of that late epidemic. At the age of 8, he nearly died from Polio. I believe he was in the hospital for over a month, had to eat through a tube, and lost the ability to lift his arms above his head.

    Ironically, Polio was also the reason he didn't have to go to Vietnam, thus potentially saving his life.


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