Comparing the Polio Virus with the Coronavirus continued…

Who is Vulnerable?

A At first it was thought that only babies got polio, hence the original term infantile paralysis. However, children who contracted the poliovirus were usually under the age of five.  But older children began to get sick, too. Boys more often than girls got polio and surprisingly, usually only one member of a family contracted polio. However,  some adults also contracted the virus. It was also thought that someone who had been under extreme stress or been involved in strenuous activity after exposure to the virus was at increased risk. (see Franklin Roosevelt’s story in my activity book as to why and how he contracted the poliovirus). It was also thought that anyone who had their tonsils out, was pregnant, or had a weakened immune system, such as being HIV-positive is more at risk.

B At first, COVID19 was thought to affect only the elderly and those with a compromised immune system. However, recently a twelve-year-old has died as well as some adults in their forties and fifties. Seniors in nursing homes have been hit particularly hard with many deaths reported. Some children also have experienced some unusual symptoms which seem to be connected with the virus.

What Time of Year do the viruses Prefer?

A Polio arrived during the summer months, so this time was often referred to as polio summers. The worst epidemics were during the hottest months, August being the worst time.

B. The Coronavirus is new to humans and although it arrived in December 2019, the general public didn’t know about it until early January 2020. At this time, it is not known when this virus will show up again once it is hopefully stopped. However, it appears to prefer colder/cooler i.e., late winter/early spring temperatures, if its first appearance is any indication.

Preventing the spread of the virus

A People were warned to stay away from crowds. Children’s Day at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition was cancelled and children didn’t go back to school until after Thanksgiving when cooler temperatures had returned. Parents were to keep their kids indoors or within their own yards. Quarantine signs on doors meant the whole family was quarantined. Then neighbours left groceries on their doorsteps. Insects were held suspect so children were given fly swatters and told to kill as many flies as they could. Swimming pools were closed as the water was also considered as a possible source of spreading the virus. People were reminded to use good hygiene. Thousands lined up for train tickets to leave the city with the hope there would be less chance of getting the virus in less populated areas. Some small communities and resorts put up roadblocks to keep people out. Those wishing in had to have proof that they were not carrying the virus.

Parents could not comfort their children who were in an iron lung but could only wave from behind a glass wall.

Incubation time for non-paralytic polio was 3-6 days and 7-12 for on-set paralysis.

B Cruise ships were turned away from countries and quarantined as they carried passengers who had the virus or were potential carriers of COVID19. People were told to stay at home except for essential service workers. And curbside delivery and pick-up became common. Social distancing and the 14-day quarantine were introduced, along with self-isolation with the threat of fines and or jail time if the rules were not followed. Parks, playgrounds, movie theatres, stadiums and schools, were closed. And airlines were shut down. Everything but essential services such as hospitals, grocery stores, garbage collection, buses and taxis were closed. People working in these services were screened and tested  frequently. Seniors in nursing homes could  communicate only through their window as no one was allowed in during the pandemic. People were constantly reminded to wash hands thoroughly, keep your hands off your face, cough into your sleeve, wear a mask, stay at home,  and not to gather in groups. The CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) was cancelled due to the pandemic. This is only the second time since World War 11 that it has been shut down completely, People tried to leave their homes in an attempt to find a safer place to avoid COVID19. Some places refuse  others in fearing the spread of the virus into their country.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.


A Jonas Salk and his team worked incessantly for two and a half years to produce a vaccine for polio. There was not the modern technology we have today. Some tried taking medications that actually had bad side effects because they were so terrified of getting the virus. There is no cure for polio, only prevention by being immunized.

B There is experimental testing now to produce a vaccine for COVID19. It is estimated that it will be a year before a vaccine will be developed. As it stands there is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Some people are trying untested treatments, not approved by the  health department, disregarding warnings that  they may have harmful side effects.


A Dr. Salk came to the Connaught Laboratory at the University of Toronto Canada to ask for help as this Lab was known well known for their work with vaccines. He needed help in two ways: first to make his vaccine safe for humans and secondly to have the vaccine available in huge quantities for the field trial which would be needed to be done before the vaccine went to full production. Connaught scientists were able to do both for Dr. Salk. He was then able to carry on with the last step which was killing the live virus. Connaught Laboratory supplied all the poliovirus fluids needed (3,000 litres) for the United States to complete the largest medical experiment in history. April 12, 1955, the polio vaccine was declared safe and that it worked.

B Canada and the United States sent masks to China when COVID 19 broke out there, with the hope that China would reciprocate during our drastic shortage needed for our front line workers.  Lack of safety equipment such as proper masks as well as ventilators has been a real problem putting those on the front line at risk and afraid to go to work As of now a  trial vaccine is about to be tested. Still, it is a long process before a vaccine if it is proven safe and efficient before it will be available.

Shortage of medical equipment

A There was a shortage of Iron lungs during the polio pandemic. At Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Canada, there was a little 5-year-old who was going to die without an iron lung and there were none left. Out of desperation, a wooden one was built in the basement of the hospital which saved his life. During an epidemic in Winnipeg, one hospital needed 92 lungs at one time.

B Canada is facing a similar situation at this time. And companies are refitting their workplaces to make hand sanitizers, face shields, etc. Individuals are sewing hundreds of face masks streetwear. Still, we are short protective gear for those working on the front lines which to me is a moral issue.

A/B A Moral Dilemma:

Who decided who got the last iron lung or who gets the last ventilator? What a sad, scary scenario for all those involved including the patients and the doctors. Hopefully, in the future, we will be more prepared for such a situation so that no one will have to make a decision such as this.

Chances of Reoccurrence:

A Adults who had polio as a child may have the return of the symptoms when they get older.  This is referred to as Post-Polio Syndrome-(PPS). Sadly, often the symptoms are more severe than the original ones were.

B There is already talking about the chance of a 2nd wave of the coronavirus in the fall. But because it is a new virus to humans, we don’t know yet. We can only hope and pray that this will not be the case.

Note: The time period of each virus could also be compared under the titles – social, political and economic events. (This is covered for the poliovirus  in my activity book). Since we have now experienced COVID19, the above categories would prove to make for more interesting comparisons.

Note: The above information is correct to the best of my ability at the time of this post. However, changes are happening on a daily basis with  COVID19 and will continue to do so as things beginning to open up.

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