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March 9, 1994

Dirt and Disease: Polio Before FDR

Author Affiliations

National Center for Prevention Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, Ga

JAMA. 1994;271(10):792-793. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510340082042

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The author describes this book as a social history of polio, dealing with society's response to poliomyelitis rather than with the impact of the disease on morbidity and mortality. As a case study, it focuses on the 1916 epidemic in New York City. Individual chapters treat the way sanitarians/public health reformers tried to deal with polio, the impact of developing laboratory science on both public and professional perceptions, proposals from the lay public on how to deal with polio, and the ways the emerging discipline of epidemiology tried to decipher the epidemic. Finally, there is a brief summary of polio since Franklin D. Roosevelt, touching on the societal impact of having a president with paralysis due to polio and the development and introduction of inactivated and live attenuated vaccines.

There are both good points and drawbacks to the book. It appears to be an expansion of a doctoral thesis and

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