It’s déjà vu: coronavirus vs. polio

It’s déjà vu: coronavirus vs. polio

It’s déjà vu: coronavirus vs. polio
A polio patient with a paralyzed diaphragm would typically spend two weeks inside an iron lung while recovering.

It is interesting to observe how similar coronavirus is to polio – also a virus.

Many of us still remember the polio epidemic when we were growing up, and most knew of someone who was infected. It was a time when everyone was at risk – especially children – and there was nothing parents could do to protect their families.

Each summer, polio would come on like the plague. Beaches and pools would close, and children were banned from movie theaters and bowling alleys. Returning to school in September was particularly stressful, as we saw the empty desks where our friends would never sit in again.

In the 1940s and 1950s, polio infected thousands of children annually. In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 were infected – leaving thousands paralyzed and more than 3,000 dead. No one knew how polio was spread, and fear of the unknown ran rampant. Families were quarantined for 14 days, which was considered polio’s lifespan.

The March of Dimes mobilized millions to raise money. Numerous researchers were seeking a cure, but it was Dr. Jonas Salk of the University of Pittsburgh who developed the vaccine. On April 12, 1955, the Salk polio vaccine was declared safe and effective and mass immunization campaigns were conducted. By 1958, Albert Sabin developed an oral vaccine was that was superior in terms of ease of administration and provided longer-lasting results. It replaced the Salk vaccine.

Researchers and local governments in America are now working around the clock to stop the spread of coronavirus, just as they did a half-century ago when the vaccine for the polio virus was being developed.