Heartless Killer Will Not Strike Again


In the 1950s, summertime was a time of fear and anxiety for many parents; this was the season when children by the thousands became infected with the crippling disease named polio. Poliomyelitis is a disorder caused by a viral infection that can affect the whole body, including muscles and nerves. Severe cases may cause permanent paralysis or death. This epidemic caused great fear in many people due to the fact that this disease was communicable it could be transmitted through direct person-to-person contact, by contact with infected secretions from the nose or mouth or by contact with infected feces. Matter of fact, one individual contracted the disease while changing his son\'s diaper.


Once the virus entered through the mouth and nose it would multiply in the throat and intestinal tract, then it would be absorbed and spread through the blood and lymph system. Polio is most common in the summer and fall. Adults and young girls are more likely to be infected, but infection in young boys is more likely to result in paralysis. Between 1840 and the 1950s, polio was a worldwide epidemic. Since the development of polio vaccines, the incidence is much reduced. Outbreaks still occur, usually in non-immunized groups.
The patient\'s examination may shows signs of irritations, such as stiff neck or back stiffness with resistance to neck flexion. When sitting, the person may need to support the body with the arms. The person may have difficulty lifting the head or lifting the legs from a supine position reflexes may also be abnormal. The disorder may affect the cranial nerves and cause difficulty with facial expression, swallowing, chewing, and so on. It may also cause choking or difficulty breathing.


Fortunately, this disease would not live long. Thanks to the efforts and research of two notable scientist: Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Alfred Sabin. I was given the opputunity to view both of these scientist at their lab and to conduct an interview with the two.


Jonas Salk was born in New York City. His parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants who, although they themselves lacked formal education, like all parents they were determined to see their children succeed, and encouraged them to study hard. Jonas Salk was the first member of his family to go to college. While attending the University of New York he did many researches on influenza which became the basis of his research on polio. Salk\'s years of research would soon pay off.


As luck may have it, I was in the lab at the time of his discoveries. He discovered that by inserting a vaccine with "killed" polio virus then the patient\'s system will become immune to the polio virus. When news of the discovery was made public Salk was hailed as a miracle worker. He further endeared himself to the public by refusing to patent the vaccine. He had no desire to profit personally from the discovery, but merely wished to see the vaccine die as widely as possible. There was some evidence that the "killed" vaccine failed to completely immunize the patient. Tragically, the preparation of the virus infected some patients with the disease, rather than immunizing them. Since the introduction of the original vaccine, the few new cases of polio reported in the United States were probably caused by the "live" vaccine which was intended to prevent them. In countries where Salk\'s vaccine has remained in use, the disease has been virtually eradicated


My time with Dr. Alfred Sabin was also an interesting time spent. Sabin was born in Bialystok, Poland, on August 26, 1906, one of four children of Tillie and Jacob Sabin. The family came to America in 1921, settling in Paterson, New Jersey, where Sabin\'s father was in the silk and manufacturing business. Early in his career, Sabin, who received his medical degree from New York University in 1931, and became interested in polio.


During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, where he was involved with the development of a vaccine against dengue fever and the successful vaccination of 65,000 military personnel against the Japanese type of polio. After the war, Sabin continued his research on polio. He developed a vaccine that used live viruses. Sabin, had