EXHIBITS: A Killer Remembered

Science  13 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5724, pp. 933
DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5724.933d

Americans were so worried about polio in the early and middle 20th century that some towns forbade travelers under 16 years old from entering, fearing they might be carrying the disease. At Whatever Happened to Polio? you can look back at those nervous days and learn about the vaccines that helped stamp out polio in the United States.

The new Web site, which accompanies an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, marks the 50th anniversary of the polio vaccine. It offers period photos, audio clips from polio survivors, and other resources that chart the disease's wrenching impact on society and families. For instance, newly diagnosed children were often quarantined for up to 14 days, followed by several weeks of limited contact with their parents. Technologies of the day included cumbersome iron lungs that helped paralyzed patients breathe. You can also learn about Jonas Salk's and Albert Sabin's vaccines. Salk introduced his vaccine first, but Sabin's, which relied on a weakened virus rather than an inactive one, was more widely used. A final section looks at current efforts to eradicate polio from the few countries where it remains.

americanhistory.si.edu/polio

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