A Summer Plague: Polio and Its Survivors

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9780300062922: A Summer Plague: Polio and Its Survivors

This work is a comprehensive account of the poliomyelitis epidemic. It takes the story from the first major outbreak of "Infantile Paralysis" in New York in 1916 - which induced panic on a scale reminiscent of the great plagues of history - through to its lingering aftermath in the shape of the so-called, and still mysterious Post-Polio Syndrome. This account combines several strands - biographical, political and social - as well as clinical and microbiological. It focuses on those individuals who were influential in the treatment and "conquest" of polio - from the most celebrated polio sufferer of all, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who set up his own hydrotherapy centre at Warm Springs in Georgia - to the scientific rivals, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, caught up in the race to produce a viable vaccine. The story also features John Enders, the Nobel prizewinner who made the crucial breakthrough in the laboratory; FDR's lieutenant, Basil O'Connor, whose "March of Dimes" became a byword for successful fund-raising; and Sister Elizabeth Kenny, the nurse from the Australian outback who challenged medical orthodoxy and invented "miracle" cures. In Britain, despite ten years of increasingly severe outbreaks, it took the death from bulbar polio in 1959 of an international footballer, Jeff Hall, to etch the importance of polio prevention on people's minds. The second part of this book examines the experiences of polio survivors on both sides of the Atlantic and concludes with a moving autobiographical account of the disease and resulting disability.

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About the Author:

Tony Gould is a writer, critic, and former books editor of New Society. His most recent book is Death in Chile: A Memoir and a Journey.

From Library Journal:

Jonas Salk's recent death reminds us of one of this century's most dramatic triumphs in public health?the conquest of polio, at least in Western nations. People over 50 readily remember the fear inspired by the disease, the March of Dimes fundraising campaigns, and their relief when Salk's vaccine became available. This entertaining, anecdotal history of the disease and its defeat includes the social and political issues involved. Gould particularly concentrates on personalities, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Salk, Albert Sabin, Sister Elizabeth Kenny, and Basil O'Connor, creator of the March of Dimes. We are told in detail about the vicious controversies involved in the struggle to understand the disease and to develop a vaccine. The second half of the book provides personal accounts of British and American paralytic polio sufferers, including the author himself. While there are several other excellent books on this topic (Naomi Rogers's Dirt and Disease: Polio Before FDR, LJ 7/92, and Jane S. Smith's Patenting the Sun, LJ 4/15/90), none takes this work's particular anecdotal, dramatic, and detailed approach or covers so much social and personal history. For public and academic history of medicine collections.?Marit MacArthur, Auraria Lib., Denver, Col.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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