Polio. Not polo!

By Nancy Black

“When she turns 18, I’m paying for her vaccinations,” my youngest child declared about her best friend. Said friend’s mother is one of those parents who choose to not have their children vaccinated. It is a choice every parent has the right to make. My teenager was just afraid for her BFF.

And it is a justified fear. More than 50 people have now been infected by the measles in an outbreak across Washington state and Oregon, according to National Public Radio. Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. It’s followed by a rash all over the body. Measles is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing. Doctors and nurses say it’s spurring people to get vaccinated. Washington and Oregon are two of 17 states, along with Texas, that let children go to school unvaccinated because of personal beliefs. 

We have a lovely neighbor who had polio as a child. Recently, I asked my child to go over to her house and offer to walk the neighbor’s dog for her. The sweet poodle is normally relegated to only his yard, since his owner has trouble walking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease. It is caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.

“In the late 1940s to the early 1950s, polio outbreaks in the United States increased in frequency and size; polio crippled an average of more than 35,000 people in the United States each year, the CDC reports. “It was one of the most feared diseases of the twentieth century.” Our neighbor was one of those affected when she was young. 

I clearly remember when I was young, my grade school lined all the children up in the auditorium and made us get our polio vaccines. I was more than happy to get it, because my mother’s best friend had polio and it was hard for me as a kid to watch an adult, who seemed normal in every other way, struggle to get around. 

Because of that effective vaccine, the United States has been polio-free since 1979. But poliovirus is still a threat in some countries. And the debilitating results of the polio outbreaks from the 50s can still be seen today in the adult survivors of the disease. Like when my teenager saw our neighbor walk to her car for the first time this week.

I guess said child thought I meant “polo” when I said “polio,” but whatever the reason, they announced, “I am DEFINITELY going to be walking her dog for her.” And saving money for her friend’s future shots!