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December 11, 1996

In the Shadow of Polio: A Personal and Social History

Author Affiliations

Mayo Medical School (emeritus) Rochester, Minn


by Kathryn Black, 307 pp, with illus, $23, ISBN 0-201-40739-6, New York, NY, Addison-Wesley, 1996.

JAMA. 1996;276(22):1849. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540220073039

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Katherine Black has produced a dramatic account of the poliomyelitis epidemics and their social impact. In the Shadow of Polio is skillfully written and has an abundance of references (262 notes plus a bibliography). The author has portrayed the medical and social dilemmas that patients, families, physicians, and society faced in this often fatal or crippling disease. The social and psychological impact of polio during the great epidemics is identified, and the need to recognize these factors in the proper care of patients in contemporary epidemics and with postpolio syndrome is pointed out. The book should be of interest to all physicians, as it provides essential insights for those who care for such patients.

A daughter's search for her mother is the major theme. When the author was 4 years old her mother developed paralytic poliomyelitis during one of the great epidemics of the first part of this cen