Definitions

polio-

poliomyelitis

[poh-lee-oh-mahy-uh-lahy-tis]
or polio or infantile paralysis

Acute infectious viral disease that can cause flaccid paralysis of muscles. Severe epidemics killed or paralyzed many people, mostly children and young adults, until the 1960s, when Jonas Salk's injectable killed vaccine and Albert B. Sabin's oral attenuated live vaccine controlled polio in the developed world. Flulike symptoms with diarrhea may progress to back and limb pain, muscle tenderness, and stiff neck. Destruction of spinal cord motor cells causes paralysis, ranging from transient weakness to complete, permanent paralysis, in fewer than 20percnt of patients. Patients may lose the ability to use their limbs, to breathe, or to swallow and speak. They may need physical medicine and rehabilitation, mechanical breathing assistance, or tracheal suction to remove secretions. A “postpolio syndrome” occurs decades later in some cases, with weakness of muscles that had recovered.

Learn more about poliomyelitis with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Polio: An American Story (ISBN 0-19-515294-8) is a book by David M. Oshinsky, professor of history at The University of Texas at Austin, which documents the polio epidemic in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s and the race to find a cure.

It was published in 2005 by the Oxford University Press and won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for History and the 2005 Herbert Hoover Book Award.

References

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