Polio: Ongoing challenges

posted by Ann G.

Polio was one of the most dreaded diseases on earth during the first half of the 20th century, but if you were born after about 1970 you probably haven’t given it much of a thought—until recently. Current news reports include both accounts of the concerning increase in cases of Enterovirus 68, a “cousin” of polio (along with the question of whether it is related to rare instances of child paralysis), and the advances still being made in preventing polio by means of a combination vaccine. Polio is ALMOST (99%) eliminated from the earth, but in these days of international travel, that’s not a sure tInside the Outbreaks book coverhing!

As we mentioned in a previous post, this year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jonas Salk, who developed the first safe and successful polio vaccine, and the library is celebrating this milestone with a program called Polio Then and Now: From Salk’s Game-Changing Vaccine to Today’s Resurgence on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Central Library, and a related booklist. It’s a perfect time to learn about polio in today’s world!

You can stream these three videos right from the library’s catalog. The seminar Epidemic! discusses the many factors “influencing the causes, spread, and control of infectious diseases”—including how we use antibiotics, how we relate to news stories about disease outbreaks, and how far we can go to contain their spread. Modern Marvels: Polio Vaccine outlines the path towards an effective vaccine, and includes a section called “Polio Fight Continues.” A World Without Polio focuses in on the heroic efforts of organizations today traveling the world trying to achieve the elusive 100% eradication.

And, for a fascinating read about the courageous teams that travel to the source of the diseases that scare us, check out Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. These are sleuths on steroids! Don’t forget: when you are sleuthing for the truth about the latest outbreak, consider these tips for “healthy web surfing”—meaning, finding reliable, factual health information. Intrigued? Check out the polio site from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention!

And see you on October 28 at the Central Library!

polio eradication WHO
Polio inoculation in Africa; photo by Sanofi Pasteur (Flickr)


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