Dr. Jonas Salk tested his polio vaccine on his own family
Rows of iron lungs with polio patients are arrayed at the Ranchos Los Amigos Respiratory Center in Los Angeles.
Image: AS400 DB/Corbis
Before the mid-1950s, polio was one of the most feared diseases in the world. Caused by a virus, it created annual epidemics. The disease hit children the hardest. Once contracted, the virus replicates rapidly and invades the nervous system of the victim. People infected are generally contagious for six weeks, even if they show no symptoms
The disease struck indiscriminately. Even U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was affected, losing the use of his legs after a diagnosis at the age of 39. In 1938, he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, to fund research into a cure. Roosevelt also founded the March of Dimes, a massive public fundraising effort to aid the afflicted and find a cure or vaccine Read more…