Journal-News, Monday, July 5,1993
Polio epidemic claimed 38,000 victims a year
(First of a three-part series on polio and the introdution of vaccines.)
By Jim Blount
April 12, 1955, was a day of "great joy and happiness" throughout the Hamilton area, observed a Journal-News reporter, "as parents of children breathed a deep sigh of relief upon learning that the dreaded disease has at last been virtually conquered by the forces of medical science."
The euphoria followed announcement of government approval of the Salk vaccine for polio, a disease which struck all ages, but especially children.
In the 10 years preceding 1955, more than 390 polio cases had been reported in Butler County, including 116 stricken in Hamilton. Eight of the local victims died.
"Butler County health records indicate that the ages of those stricken with polio during the last 10 years ranged from three months to 45 years," the Journal-News reported, "with the six and seven-year-old youngsters contributing the largest number of victims."
For years, parental fear of the mysterious ailment had turned what were supposed to be the care-free days of summer into long, hot weeks of confinement and isolation for children from pre-school age through the teen years.
While medical researchers sought both the cause and a way to prevent polio, many parents reacted to the first seasonal report of the disease in this area by keeping their children away from swimming pools, theaters and other places where youngsters gathered in warmer months (May through August).
Polio (poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis) is a viral infection which attacks the nervous system with effects ranging from minor illness to paralysis. Some victims had to be placed in iron lungs (whole-body breathing machines) after losing the ability to breathe on their own.
Polio's most famous adult victim was a future occupant of the White House — Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was stricken Aug. 10, 1921, at age 39, more than 11 years before he was elected president.
Polio had surfaced, or was first recognized, in the U. S. in 1894. The epidemic peaked in the U. S. between 1942 and 1953.
From 1950 to 1954, more than 38,000 people a year were crippled by the disease, according to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (the March of Dimes).
In 1952, polio struck more than 50,000 in the U. S., paralyzing 21,000 and killing 3,100 people. That year tests began on the vaccine developed by 38-year-old Dr. Jonas Salk.
Dr. Salk had graduated in 1939 from the New York University Medical School, where his interest in vaccines had developed.
He joined Dr. Thomas Francis Jr. in the influenza vaccine project at the University of Michigan before moving to the University of Pittsburgh to direct a viral research laboratory. There he began the search for a polio preventive, financed by contributions to the March of Dimes Foundation.
The first mass Salk inoculation was given to students in Pittsburgh Feb. 23, 1954. Anxious parents had to wait more than a year for the results of that test and others in 1954.
Tuesday, April 12, 1955, it was announced that the Salk vaccine had been found 80 to 90 percent effective in preventing paralytic polio in tests conducted in 1954 by Dr. Francis. Of 1.8 million children in the national Salk test, 1,013 cases of polio developed.
The 1954 test included 7,921 children in Montgomery and Richland counties in Ohio, where only three contracted polio.
For several years preceding Dr. Salk's breakthrough, parents in this area had participated in the March of Dimes campaign to fund polio research.
In April 1955 some of that money paid for enough vaccine to provide free inoculations for nine million children, mostly in the first and second grades.
In Butler County, plans had been made for inoculating local children before the April 12 announcement.
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Journal-News, Monday, July 12,1993
Children were bused to polio vaccination sites
(Second of a three-part series on polio and the introdution of vaccines.)
By Jim Blount
Children in the first and second grades in Butler County public and parochial schools received their first polio shots 15 days after the Salk vaccine had been declared safe and effective by federal authorities.
Local health agencies were ready to start the inoculation program when government approval for the prevention program developed by Dr. Jonas Salk came Tuesday, April 12, 1955.
"There were more than 390 cases of polio in Butler County during the last 10 years, including 116 cases in Hamilton, resulting in eight deaths," said the Journal-News, noting that six and seven-year-olds had been hit the hardest.
The Butler County immunization program was directed by Dr. Richard Hardin, Hamilton public school physician, and Dr. H. A. Moore, county health commissioner, in cooperation with the Hamilton Academy of Medicine, the Butler County Medical Society and the Hamilton Druggists Association.
There was no charge for the shots for children. The serum had been financed by "dimes contributed to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis," or the March of Dimes, according to a 1955 Associated Press report.
The program advocated by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis said the second inoculation should follow three weeks after the first shot, and the third, or booster shot, should be given by a private physician no earlier than seven months after the second and no later than April 1, 1956— the beginning of the next polio season.
The Butler County inoculations had been scheduled Wednesday, April 20, but had to be postponed when the local vaccine shipment was delayed.
A limited amount had arrived Saturday, April 16, from Parke-Davis Laboratories in Detroit. By Monday, April 18, it was in the hands of some local doctors, receiving enough to serve fewer than 10 children. Doctors were scheduled to receive larger shipments after completion of the mass inoculation program.
The area's vaccine allotment arrived Saturday, April 23, and was stored at Mercy Hospital in Hamilton. It had been sent to Dayton by railroad express from Philadelphia where it had been developed by Wyatt Laboratories.
The shipment included 2,826 units for Hamilton, 2,331 for Middletown and 2,403 for the remainder of the county.
Meanwhile, most parents wasted little time in completing the required permission forms.
Wednesday, April 27, first and second graders in public and parochial schools received the first of three Salk polio inoculations, which the newspaper said were "designed to prevent the horrible disease from crippling or destroying these young lives."
Doctors and nurses, working in teams, volunteered their services at nine inoculation centers in the city and county.
Nearly 2,700 Hamilton children were transported to Pierce, Jefferson and Adams elementary schools to receive shots. More than 2,200 children were vaccinated at six county schools (Fairfield, Ross, West Chester, Trenton, New Miami and Stewart in Oxford). At each location, candy was given to the children after the shots.
The local Salk program continued the next year. By the end of 1956, polio cases in the U. S were down to 15,140 for the year. In 1957 — the first ft year of use of the Salk vaccine — the total dropped to 5,894.
By contrast, during the 1950-1954 period the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis said more than 38,000 had been crippled by the disease.
But the Salk vaccine wasn't the final word in polio prevention. Oct. 6,1956, in Cincinnati Dr. Albert Sabin announced he had developed an oral vaccine.
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Journal-News, Monday, July 19,1993
Life-saving polio vaccine produced fast results
(Last of a three-part series on polio and the introdution of vaccines.)
By Jim Blount
In 1962 parents in the Hamilton area gladly paid 25 cents to protect their children from polio, a disease which once had crippled about 40 youngsters annually in Butler County.
"Ten years ago persons would have paid almost any price for a vaccine which would assure them they would not be stricken with polio," noted the Journal-News in commenting on the 25-cent donation requested from recipients of the Sabin polio vaccine.
Dr. Albert Sabin developed the vaccine during his 30-year career at the University of Cincinnati. His cherry-flavored polio vaccine quickly replaced the Salk inoculation worldwide, especially in undeveloped nations where injected vaccines were not practical.
The Salk vaccine — first offered in April 1955 — relied on dead or inactive polio viruses and was injected directly into the blood stream to trigger the body's immunity mechanism. Three or more shots are required over a seven-month period.
The weakened live Sabin vaccine taken orally so it can lodge in the stomach, which is described as "the natural habitat of polio viruses." The Sabin vaccine was easier to administer. Two drops of the Sabin oral vaccine were placed on a sugar cube. For those too small to chew or swallow the cube, the solution was placed in the mouth with a dropper.
Thanks to Salk and Sabin, by 1970 there were no polio deaths in the U. S. 20 years earlier there had been about one death a year in the Hamilton area.
The first large-scale American test of the Sabin polio vaccine was Sunday, April 23, 1960, when about 18,000 preschool children in Cincinnati participated.
It would be 27 months before the Sabin serum cleared regulatory hurdles and was available in Butler County. The first of a three-part immunization program started Sept. 25-30, 1962, under the direction of the Butler County Medical Society.
Dr. James Sawyer, society president, appointed a committee chaired by Dr. Alexander Witkow, Hamilton health director and Butler County health commissioner, and including Dr. Benjamin Sawyer of Middletown, Dr. Ralph Leyrer of Hamilton and Dr. James Goldey of Oxford.
The local program attracted more than 4,000 volunteer workers, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, senior citizens and employees of several businesses and industries. Some companies contributed materials. The 200,000 sugar cubes, for example, were donated by Albers Super Markets in this area.
The first Sabin dose was for Type 1 polio, which had been responsible for more than 80 percent of paralysis cases.
By Friday, Sept. 28, the vaccine had been taken by 37,343 children in public and parochial schools — more than 80 percent of those eligible. The total included 12,154 in Hamilton public schools; 10,500 in Middletown schools; 10,732 in other county public schools; 2,933 in Hamilton parochial schools; and 1,024 in Middletown parochial schools. Not included were pupils in Oxford and Reily schools, who had taken the vaccine earlier in the year.
Sunday, Sept. 30, the vaccine was available to anyone over the age of six weeks, including people who had earlier received the Salk shots.
That day more than 53,000 doses were administered at 17 locations, including five in Hamilton, which were open from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The next week 5,316 people were served, bringing the total to 95,186.
The program was repeated for type II and type III vaccines with 94,779 participating in November 1962 and 76,000 in April 1963.
Dr. Sabin, born Aug. 26,1906, in Poland, had emigrated with his family to the U. S. when he was 15, settling in Patterson, N. J. He was graduated from the New York University Medical School in 1931. He died March 3, 1993, in Washington, D. C., and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
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Journal-News, Monday, July 26,1993
While soldiers served in Korean War Hamilton enjoyed prosperity
By Jim Blount
The Korean War ended 40 years ago — July 27, 1953 — without fanfare in Hamilton, a stark contrast to the jubilant community celebrations eight years earlier when Germany and Japan surrendered at the end of World War II.
About 2,500 men and women from Butler County served in the Korean war zone and at least 42 died in the three-year struggle. Excluding Middle Town, the area toll was 118 casualties with 31 men dead and eight missing in action.
"Most Hamilton residents, like millions of other Americans, had escaped from the war that wasn't a war without sacrificing a gallon of gasoline, a pound of sugar, a pack of cigarettes — or a loving son or devoted father," noted the Journal-News, contrasting it to the intensity on the home front during World War II.
For most area residents, it was a period of prosperity, full employment, and industrial and residential expansion.
Korea had been split at the 36th parallel in 1945 at the end of World War II with a communist government taking control in the north, the area which had been occupied by the Soviet Union, while the U. S. backed South Korea.
The Korean conflict started Sunday, June 25, 1950 when North Korean troops crossed the 36th parallel. On June 27 President Harry Truman committed U. S. naval and air support to South Korea, and June 30 he authorized the use of U. S. troops, under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a World War II hero.
In Hamilton, during that summer shortages of some items were noted due to hoarders who feared a return to the austere rationing programs of World War II.
The first Korean War draftees, a group of 31 men between the ages of 22 and 25, were notified in July and reported for duty Sept. 1, 1950. The county's draft quota that month was 312 men.
Full production for Hamilton's varied defense industries and the hiring of more than 700 workers within three months resulted from the war. The city's industrial employment soared from 18,000 in 1950 to 23,000 in 1953.
The war was marked by sudden changes in momentum, the most dramatic when Communist Chinese forces came to the support of North Korea Oct. 16,1950.
A major controversy ignited when Truman removed MacArthur from command April 11, 1951, after the general went public with his ideas on how and where the war should be waged.
While the fighting continued, peace negotiations were held intermittently after July 1951, finally leading to the July 27, 1953 armistice which continued the division of the nation. It was a Sunday evening when word of the truce reached Hamilton.
"There were no loud shop whistles to proclaim the signing of the truce, no bells ringing, nor were there people dancing in the streets," the Journal-News reported, in comparing local reaction in 1953 to the spontaneous events here at the end of world wars in 1918 and 1946.
"The Korean War took more lives from this area than World War I. Fewer than 20 fatalities for Hamilton and vicinity wen recorded at that time," said the Journal-News. "In World War II, 130 deaths were reported oat of a total of 495 local casualties."
The Korean War was unlike previous wars involving the United States. It was fought under the United Nations flag and according to UN objectives, it ended with a truce, not an American victory. It also was part of the 45-year Cold War, pitting the U. S. against the Soviet Union.
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