Chapter 1Polio Arrives to America
June 17, 1894First U.S. Polio Epidemic
1905Contagious Nature of Polio Discovered
In Vienna, Karl Landsteiner, MD (1868-1943), and Erwin Popper, MD (1879-1955), announced that the infectious agent in polio was a virus.
Popper and Landsteiner deduced the viral nature of polio by carefully filtering preparations of spinal cord fluid from a person who had died of polio. The filters were known to trap bacteria. When Popper and Landsteiner injected the filtered preparations into monkeys, the monkeys developed polio. The researchers then concluded that an infectious particle smaller than bacteria caused the disease.
Poliovirus itself would not be visible to researchers until the 1950s, when the electron microscope was available.
June 17, 1916New York City Polio Epidemic
August 8, 1921Polio Strikes FDR
Chapter 2The Search for a Polio Vaccine
1931More Than One Type of Poliovirus Proposed
1936Growing Poliovirus in Human Nervous Tissue
1938March of Dimes Born
1941Poliovirus in Digestive System
1948Koprowski Tests Polio Vaccine on Himself
1949Bodian Finds Three Types of Poliovirus
1952Polio Cases Surge
May 16, 1953Salk Gives Vaccine to His Family
Salk injected himself, his wife, and their three sons with his experimental poliovirus vaccine.
Chapter 3The Polio Vaccine Arrives
April 25, 1954Massive Polio Vaccine Trial Begins in U.S.
April 12, 1955Polio Vaccine Results Announced
In a press conference at the University of Michigan, Thomas Francis Jr., MD (a scientist with extensive experience with influenza vaccines), and colleagues announced the results of the Salk poliovirus vaccine trial. The vaccine, they said, was 80-90% effective against paralytic polio.
The U.S. government licensed Salk’s vaccine later this same day. The press conference and licensure paved the way for widespread distribution and use of the vaccine.
1959Soviet Trials of Sabin's Live Poliovirus Vaccine
August 24, 1960Sabin's Polio Vaccine Licensed
Chapter 4Polio Is Marked for Eradication
1985Goal Set for Polio Elimination in the Americas
1988Global Polio Eradication Initiative
September 29, 1994Polio Declared Eliminated from the Americas
On August 20, 1994, the Pan American Health Organization had reported that three years had passed since the last case of wild polio in the Americas. A three-year-old Peruvian boy, Luis Fermín, had the last registered case there.
The International Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication in the Americas examined this report as well as extensively reviewing lab and surveillance data. Based on the results of these analyses, wild poliovirus was declared eliminated from the Americas in September 1994, making the Americas the first World Health Organization Region to meet the goal of polio elimination.
1997Massive Vaccination Efforts in India
1998Polio Immunization Efforts in Sudan
June 21, 2002Polio Eliminated in Europe
Fourteen years after the launch of the global eradication program, the World Health Organization declared polio eliminated in Europe on June 6, 2002.
The last case of wild polio in Europe occurred in a young boy. Melik Minas, who lived in Turkey, contracted polio in November 1998. Minas, who had not been vaccinated, was paralyzed as a result of the infection—although he did partially recover.