My paternal grandfather, Marvin Edward Jennings (1901-1961), was one of the unfortunate children who contracted polio. For the rest of his life, he wore a leg brace and believed the disease caused his widowed father to commit him to an orphanage, which I've written about here.
One of the enduring memories of my childhood, is the entire family waiting in long lines at local schools in order to take the polio vaccine, which was delivered in the form of a sugar cube. It's a memory that many of my younger friends don't have. Thank goodness!
|Waiting in line for the polio vaccine|
1894 -- The first major polio epidemic reported in the United States occurs in Vermont, consisting of 132 total cases, including some adults.
1909 - Massachusetts begins counting polio cases.
1916 - There is a large outbreak of polio in the United States. Though the total number of affected individuals is unknown, over 9,000 cases are reported in New York City along. Attempts at controlling the disease largely involve the use of isolation and quarantine, neither of which is successful.
1928 - Philip Drinker and Louis Shaw develop the iron lung, a large metal tank equipped with a pump that assists respiration, is field tested and goes into commercial production three years later.
|Photo courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania|
1935 - Physicians Maurice Brodie and John Kollmer compete against each other, trying to be the first to develop a successful polio vaccine. Field trials fail with disastrous results as vaccines are blamed for causing many cases of polio, some of which are fatal.
1937 - Franklin Roosevelt announces the creation of the National Foundation for Infantile paralysis.
1938 - Entertainer Eddie Canter coins the name "March of Dimes" as he urges radio listeners to send their spare change to the White House to be used by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in the fight against polio. The name sticks.
1940 - Sister Elizabeth Kenny travels from her native Australia to California where she is virtually ignored by the medical community. She then travels to Minnesota where she give the first presentation in the United States to members of the Mayo Clinic staff regarding her procedures for treating polio patients by means of hot-packing and stretching affected limbs.
1942 -- The first Sister Kenny Institute opens in Minneapolis.
1943 - The Sister Kenny Foundation is formed, and Kenny's procedures become the standard treatment for polio patients in the United States, replacing the ineffective traditional approaches of "convalescent serum" and immobilization.
1945 - Large epidemics of polio in the United States occur immediately after the war with an average of more than 20,000 cases a year from 1945 to 1949.
1947 - Jonas Salk accepts a position in Pittsburgh at the new medical laboratory funded b y the Sarah Mellon Scientific Foundation.
1948 - Salk's laboratory is one of four awarded research grants for the polio virus typing project. Salk decides to use the newly developed tissue culture method of cultivating and working with the polio virus. Other researches, including Albert Sabin, who would later develop the oral polio vaccine, contiue to do their work with monkeys infected with the polio virus, a more difficult and time-consuming process.
|Doctors Salk and Younger|
Photo courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh
1953 - Amid continued "polio hysteria," there are 35,000 cases of polio in the United States.
|A physical therapist works with two polio-strickened children|
Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1955 - News of the successful vaccine trials is announced and a nationwide vaccination program is quickly started.
1957 - After a mass immunization campaign promoted by the March of Dimes, there are only about 5,600 cases of polio in the United States.
1958 and 1959 - Field trials prove the Sabin oral vaccine, which uses live, attenuated (weakened) virus, to be effective.
1962 - The Salk vaccine is replaced by the Sabin oral vaccine, which is not only superior in terms of ease of administration, but also provides longer-lasting immunization.
|Children taking the Sabin oral polio vaccine in the early 1960s|
1979 - The last indigenous transmission of wild polio virus occures in the United States. All future cases are either imported or vaccine-related.
Most of the information in this post comes from Dr. Edmund Sass's book, Polio's Legacy: An Oral History.