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Health Crises throughout History (January 2022): Polio


While Polio today is largely credited as being eradicated from certain parts of the globe, its past (primarily in the 20th century) played a critical role not only as a social issue, causing grave concern for families, but also a scientific journey into the race for a vaccination. 

David Oshinsky’s Polio: An American Story explores the disease’s history from transmission to vaccines. This investigation shows how governmental regulation and cooperation played a role in vaccine distribution and research, and how public perception caused a home-based effort to fend off the disease through cleanliness. In addition, a detailed rivalry between Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin during the Cold War is documented, which raises questions about medical ethics as well as public-versus-scientific praise for the vaccine.  

In Polio Wars: Sister Elizabeth Kenny and the Golden Age of American Medicine, Naomi Rogers gives a voice to Sister Elizabeth Kenny’s lifelong contributions to the medical field. Divided into three parts, the biographical work addresses Kenny’s methodologies for treatment (such as hot packs or muscle relaxing exercises) and her rise to becoming a foremost thinker on polio. 

In another biographical work, Polio and Its Aftermath: The Paralysis of Culture, Marc Shell tells his story as a survivor of polio. He outlines the polio experience politically, scientifically, and personally. 

Works Cited