I remember growing up on a street lined with huge, beautiful trees, children running and playing, and just happiness everywhere. Then it happened, Jimmy got sick. Jimmy was my best friend and was sent away to a hospital where children were fitted with devices so they could walk. We used to run and jump and play, never worried about tomorrow changing everything, but it did. Jimmy had polio, the dreaded disease that scientists were just starting to understand.
Today, we are now seeing active polio cases here in the United States. How does that happen, you ask? Well, I’m sure there are a lot of theories on “how” it happens, but my question is “why?” The vaccine to prevent polio was introduced in the early 1950s. Prior to the vaccine, more than 15,000 cases of paralysis were diagnosed yearly. By 1963, the number of cases fell to less than 100 and fewer than 10 cases were diagnosed in the 1970s, and no cases have been diagnosed since 1979, until today.
Avoiding political opinion, in our world today, we are travelers, much more than we were decades ago. We have visitors from all over the world and enjoy our “melting pot” communities. Enjoying the luxury of travel, relocation, etc. is not without risk and one unaware traveler can bring polio here! So, who is most at risk? Those who never had polio vaccinations, those who didn’t receive the recommended doses of the vaccine, and those traveling to areas that could put them at risk for contracting polio (see below). Per the CDC, the best way to keep the United States polio-free is to maintain high immunity (protection) against polio in the population through vaccination. Stay the course, stay well, and stay informed!