'There Was So Little Information': Polio Survivors Offer Pandemic Perspective

14 May, 2020

Dear CHIFA and HIFA colleagues,

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Extracts and a comment from me below. Full text here: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/05/12/8523763...


'There Was So Little Information': Polio Survivors Offer Pandemic Perspective

May 12, 2020

A fear of the unknown. The need to maintain an appropriate distance. An urgent desire to find a cure or vaccine.

They're the hallmarks of the coronavirus pandemic, but they also characterized an earlier epidemic: when paralysis-causing polio ravaged the U.S. in the 1940s and '50s.

Now, the toddlers and preteens of that era are once again part of a high-risk group during a deadly epidemic of a highly infectious disease.

Commonly transmitted person to person, polio led to social distancing even without official enforcement. People avoided public places and those infected were shunned...

Infectious cases peaked in the 1950s, with nearly 60,000 contracting the disease and more than 3,000 deaths in 1952 alone...


COMMENT (Neil PW): 'There Was So Little Information' about polio in the 1950s - this begs the question: Is the public any better informed about coronavirus in the 2020s? On the one hand, there is a tsunami of information. On the other hand, much of it is at best confusing and at worst dangerously misleading. This would make an interesting research project for a student of social medicine, medical history and health communications.

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org