Craft: Research

Polio & F.D.R. American Baddass

One of my husband’s buddies recommended we watch a new youtube movie trailer. The (no) minute clip for F.D.R American Baddass obsene, but incredibly funny. It follows the familiar path of books such as Little Vampire Women & Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, and the movie Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter due out later this year. In F.D.R. American Baddass, F.D.R. contracts polio from a werewolf bite. As absurd as this idea is it got me to thinking about this dangerous virus. Polio. The very word once struck fear into the hearts of adults and children alike. Just how devastating was virus? Let’s take a look.
According to Post Health International (PHI) between 1937 -2008 over 457,000 people have contracted polio. From 1946 to 1956 an average of 31,000 people contracted polio a year. The greatest peak came in 1952 where 57,879 cases were reported. PHI did not distinguish between adults and children contracting the disease.


The polio virus thrives in the throat and intestines and spreads easily from person to person via oral or nasal secretions Most individuals that contract the disease show little or no symptoms. 1% may develop paralysis or even death.


There are four different types of polio: In apparent, abortive, non-paralytic and paralytic. In apparent is the mildest. Usually resulting in flue like symptoms. Abortive also has flu like symptoms with abdominal pain. Non-paralytic have the same symptoms as In apparent & abortive in addition to stiff necks and achy limbs. The most severe and the rarest is paralytic. With paralytic, the virus attacks and destroys the motor neurons. Theses cells are responsible for relaying message from the brain the muscles. Paralysis does not mean lack of feeling. While victims cannot move their legs they still retain all feeling (Peters, Stephanie True. Epidemic! The Battle Against Polio. New York: Benchmark Books, 2005 pgs. 2-7). Many peoples lungs were effected and without the help of an iron lung, death was certain. Polio touched every ones lives even my own family. My uncle succumbed to the virus and died at fifteen. Yet many children and young adults survived, but their bodies were never the same. polio as ‘torture time’ (qtd. in Peters, Epidemic!, pg. 41). Lengthy follow up treatements, followed by excuricating physcial theropy, and numberous fittings for braces and crutches. For those that were able to regain use of their legs, it was a long, slow recovery.

A Race for the Cure

In 1937 the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) was established to study and help those effected by polio. Despite generous donations, NFIP still couldn’t raise enough money. FDR made a plea to the general public. During one fund raiser, Eddie Cantor (a famous pop star of the day) joked to send dimes to the president. People answered the call and 2,680,000 dimes flooded the White House mail At FDR’s death in April of 1945, as a memorial to the President, the dime was later fitted with his likeness.

On April 12, 1955, people breathed a sigh of relief. Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first effective polio vaccine. Dr. Albert Sabin later developed an oral vaccine that met with controversy. It wasn’t until the Worth Health Organization (WHO) began using the oral vaccine (opposed to Salk’s injection form) in Russia, did popular sentiment toward Sabin’s oral vaccine change (Peters, Epidemic!, pg. 57). By 2000 the oral vaccine (OPV) is no longer the common form of vaccinations for polio. Instead the IPV (injection) form has once again become more popular. It’s given in four doses 2, 4, 6 & 18 months and later as a booster to 4-6 year olds. While the virus has been pretty much eradicated in the U.S., the disease has not disappeared completely in other parts of the world.

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