How did the people of Hickory combat the spread of polio?
The first American case of the disease infantile paralysis, or polio, was discovered in Vermont in 1894. By 1916, New York had the country’s first polio epidemic. By 1952, there were 57,628 cases recorded in the United States.
Polio most often affected children although teens and adults could also contract it. It was a very frightening disease for families in the early part of the twentieth century. Polio would attack a person’s central nervous system. Symptoms started with a cold and fever, and then the infected person would complain of pins and needles in their hands and legs. Within days, symptoms worsened to muscle spasms, loss of mobility, and then to paralysis. Some sufferers would eventually be unable to breathe. This epidemic caused a country-wide panic during which cases increased over the summer months. There was no known cause.
United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was permanently paralyzed from polio. He had contracted the disease in 1921 at the age of 39. In 1938, President Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes, formerly known as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The March of Dimes set out to create a vaccine to conquer the disease. The organization also used funds to hire doctors, nurses, and epidemiologists.
The city of Hickory in Catawba County, North Carolina was known as “polio city” during the 1940s and 1950s. In the early summer of 1944, a toddler in Hickory became sick with polio and was taken to Charlotte for treatment. Within 24 hours, doctors identified six other children with the disease in Hickory and 68 more in the greater region. By this time, Catawba County was experiencing an epidemic.
Panic spread among the residents. Several theories existed on how polio spread. Newspapers gave mixed information on the causes of the disease. People heard it could come from swimming in local waters, airborne germs, saliva, or flies. Children were quarantined in their homes and public events were canceled. Family members called local doctors and nurses only to be sent away and told to travel to Charlotte and Gastonia hospitals. By the time they arrived, those hospitals were likely to turn them away too as they were unable to treat the many children arriving daily.
Doctors decided it was time to open a hospital in Hickory to provide care for the growing number of children and others who had polio. The hospital existed for 9 months and treated approximately 454 people. This event became known throughout the country as “the Miracle in Hickory.” Patients came from 74 other counties and even out of state. Twelve patients died, which was fewer than any other hospital record in the area.
Jonas Salk created a polio vaccine that was introduced in 1955. By 1959, North Carolina ordered that all children had to receive the vaccine. Due to this lifesaving vaccine, no cases of polio have originated in the United States since 1979.
Infantile: pertaining to babies or young children
Paralysis: being unable to move parts or all of your body
Epidemic: rapid spread or increase of a disease, etc.
Mobility: the ability to move
Epidemiologists: scientists who study disease
Quarantined: when the sick are separated from the non-sick to keep fewer people from getting ill
Your teacher will provide you with a copy of the full article from Source 2. Reread and circle any words or phrases that have a positive meaning or message about the community working together. The words you choose will become a poem about the Miracle in Hickory. Black out any unwanted words you did not circle that you do not want others to see. Get creative and use the “blacked out” space to create an image or design relating to “The Miracle in Hickory.” This can be completed in just black or you may use color. Your teacher may show you examples of black out poems or you can easily do an online search for examples.