As a young boy I feared the thought of being confined in an Iron Lung. In the 1940’s-50’s Polio was a common and dreadful disease that mostly affected children. Sometimes we heard of a classmate being diagnosed with Polio, he or she would disappear from the school and we’d rarely ever see them again. I didn’t understand what the decease was but greatly feared the thought of being inflicted with it. I could not imagine living the rest of my life in one of those awful Iron Lungs.
Today 26th April I give thanks to the memory of Doctor Salk.
On this day in 1954, the Salk polio vaccine field trials, involving 1.8 million children, begin at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. Children in the United States, Canada and Finland participated in the trials, which used for the first time the now-standard double-blind method, whereby neither the patient nor attending doctor knew if the inoculation was the vaccine or a placebo. On April 12, 1955, researchers announced the vaccine was safe and effective and it quickly became a standard part of childhood immunizations in America. In the ensuing decades, polio vaccines would all but wipe out the highly contagious disease in the Western Hemisphere.
Polio, known officially as poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease that has existed since ancient times and is caused by a virus. It occurs most commonly in children and can result in paralysis. The disease reached epidemic proportions throughout the first half of the 20th century. During the 1940s and 1950s, polio was associated with the iron lung, a large metal tank designed to help polio victims suffering from respiratory paralysis breathe.