Polio Madness

This is part 6 of a series. For part 5, click here.

This summer, I laughed so hard that I nearly choked up blood.

After six months of surviving a constant bombardment of scary news this year, no less a personage than the United Nations Secretary-General himself, Antonio Guterres, announced that the continent of Africa was, at long last, completely free of a different virus, the poliovirus.

What an utter crock of shit and a complete lie.

But blatant falsehoods are to be expected.

After all, it is quite difficult to tell the truth after you’ve been lying for a century to cover up the fact that your incompetence is directly to blame for the deaths and disfigurement of tens of thousands of children.

A Hygienic Century Begins

By the time the year 1900 rolled around, public health experts in industrialized Western countries had a lot to celebrate.

Even though cities like New York and London were growing at an exponential rate, both the rate of infectious diseases and childhood deaths were much lower.

No longer was it common for one in four children to die before the age of five.

Pasteur and Koch and Lister and all the rest had proven that hygiene was the savior of humanity, and hygiene worked because it killed germs.

Meanwhile, Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Dalton had taken the original theory of evolution and twisted it to serve a very dark purpose.

Dalton and others soon became obsessed with a concept called “eugenics,” or “good birth.” They twisted Darwin’s findings to declare that human beings were more evolved than animals, and white people were more evolved than other people.

In other words, the Tree of Life was a ladder, and white people were at the top, the very pinnacle of creation. As such, any sexual relations with a “lower” person could dilute, retard, or even reverse a white person’s child evolution.

The eugenicists’ solution to this was to implement racial hygiene laws to legally prevent non-white people from “infecting” white people, an idea that Hitler would later take to an extreme.

This dual concept of racial and physical “hygiene” thus took off in a big way in 1900 in the United States. And the way it started was with Better Babies contests.

Believe it or not, they involved white mothers entering their babies in contests where they were “judged like livestock” and awarded medals. These contests were often held at State Fairs, and the prize ribbons were identical to those given for heifers and sows.

While emphasizing the need for improvements in the health and hygiene sphere, discussions around what constituted “better babies” were intertwined with the tenets of the eugenics movement.

DeGarmo [the psycho who invented Better Babies contests] wrote of “child hygiene resulting from a proper inheritance, as well as food and clothing and environment.”

Later, this morphed into “Fitter Families” contests in which entire white families were judged on their fitness and “hygiene.”

Wacko racist ideas and physical cleanliness were thus thoroughly intertwined in what “hygiene” meant to people in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century.

And that’s what made polio such an ironic disease.

The Rich White Kid’s Burden

Instead of affecting poor immigrant kids in overcrowded city tenements, it was actually rich white kids living in nice homes in the United States and Canada who first came down with polio.


In fact, for the first decade or so, doctors presumed that people of color couldn’t even get polio precisely because all of the first cases were white people.

Naturally, all those superior, “fitter” families immediately blamed immigrants from southern and eastern Europe for “infecting” their children.

After a while, a pattern emerged. Polio’s preferred victim was:

  • White
  • Young
  • Lived in a standalone house
  • Had running water indoors
  • From the upper class or upper-middle class
  • Regularly bathed
  • Regularly used soap

In other words, polio sufferers were completely hygienic since birth.

And that is precisely because an overabundance of hygiene is what makes people vulnerable to the poliovirus.

Polio Myths

No one has probably ever told you that.

In fact, the usual malarkey that you’ll find in textbooks is that polio has been around “since at least” the time of Ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs. And what causes polio is an evil, evil virus.

Furthermore, you might have even been told that a man named Jonas Salk selflessly dedicated his life to wiping out polio.

But the truth is that polio was unknown before 1900. The Ancient Egyptian myth is based on a single picture in a tomb of a man with a withered foot, and it is just presupposed that this was the result of polio.

In addition, Jonas Salk was a devious asshole who did his level best to prevent anyone else from developing a vaccine because his own was fairly useless.

What Is Polio?

Officially, the virus is named poliovirus (one word), and the disease it causes is named poliomyelitis, but most people just say “polio” for both things.

Just like with all viruses, the vast majority of people who come into contact with poliovirus never get sick or have any symptoms. A few more people get minor symptoms like a fever.

However, a tiny, tiny percentage have their central nervous system affected. The myelin sheaths that connect nerves to the brain become inflamed and “short out,” leading to muscle weakness or even complete paralysis.

This can occur rapidly or over a period of weeks. Likewise, the myelin sheaths often regrow and people recover their muscle strength over a period of hours or weeks, or possibly years, thus reversing the muscle weakness or paralysis.

The vast, vast majority of people who do suffer from major symptoms of polio recover, but a few do not, leaving them with weak control over their muscles. And some people experience permanent partial or total paralysis.

Frankly, my Dear

Many people know that US President Franklin Roosevelt had polio.

In his case, he was an extremely wealthy white person living on the East Coast (New York), but he was not a kid when he got sick.

He was actually 39 years old when he had the first symptoms, which progressed from tingling in his fingers to near-complete paralysis in the lower half of his body within 24 hours.

However, six months later, after a lot of physical therapy, he could walk with the assistance of crutches. He later regained much more strength but had difficulty standing unaided for the rest of his life.

Weirdly, although doctors sincerely believed that Roosevelt had polio, and he even set up a polio charity for fellow whites, he actually had a different but similar disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which we’ll get into later in this article.

Nonetheless, his experience with myelitis is illustrative of what polio sufferers go through.

What Causes Polio?

Believe it or not, it comes from children not consuming feces when they are very young.

Of course, if you’ve been indoctrinated in the Germ Theory of Disease and are a Pasteur cultist, you probably believe that any contact with human feces is dirty, wrong, and bad.

That simply isn’t true as we’ll discuss in another part of this series.

Young children who grow up in a less than perfectly hygienic environment encounter the poliovirus somewhere along the way, figure out how to handle it, and never have to worry about getting poliomyelitis (the disease) later on.

A tiny, tiny, tiny subset of children who do not come into contact with poliovirus when they were young, however, contract it at a later date.  Once infected, the poliovirus then settles into their digestive system and multiplies.

Very, very rarely, for reasons that no one understands, the virus can “migrate” to the central nervous system where it damages the sheaths of the endings (called myelin), thus causing muscle weakness and/or paralysis.

In extremely serious cases, the person suffers so much muscle paralysis that they can no longer breathe on their own.

In the 1940s and 1950s when polio was at its peak in the United States, people who were paralyzed were put into an “iron lung” which used air pressure to force the body to suck air in and out (i.e. breathe).

New techniques have since made Iron Lungs unnecessary, but that was the only technology available in those days.

Panic Time

Seeing a ward full of rich white kids in iron lungs is quite scary, of course, so there was enormous pressure for doctors to come up with some kind of cure.

Unfortunately, they had no way of testing for the virus, and outbreaks happened too quickly for any kind of quarantine.

And no one could have even imagined at that time that excessive hygiene was to blame.

Instead, they focused on the only solution that they could conceive of: a vaccine.

As we discussed in an earlier part of this series, Edward Jenner had applied the “like cures like” theory to develop a vaccine against smallpox by injecting people with its weaker cousin, cowpox.

Unfortunately, polio didn’t have a “weaker cousin,” so doctors had to figure out some way to artificially weaken polio.

Jonas Salk was an American who used monkey tissues to grow poliovirus and then “inactivate” it by injecting it with formaldehyde.

This is known as a “dead” or “killed” virus, another falsehood that we’ll get into later.

Meanwhile, a team lead by Albert Sabin in America worked on a vaccine derived from “attenuating” the poliovirus. Instead of “killing” it, attenuation works by injecting the virus into a different species (an animal), often multiple times.

Since the original virus is designed for a human being, it both gets less virulent (good at making copies of itself) and genetically modified (mutates) by the animal host.

When the virus comes out the other side, this attenuated version is then an artificial “weak cousin” of the original virus and thus suitable for vaccination purposes.

Sabin’s team cooperated extensively with colleagues in the Soviet Union (where polio had begun to spread as well thanks to Lenin’s policy of rapid industrialization) to test their attenuated vaccine. Salk, meanwhile, did all of his research exclusively in the United States.

As such, Sabin’s work was highly repressed while Salk was described as a “miracle worker” in the Western press. His magnanimous decision to forgo any patent rights (and thus, money) for his “killed” virus vaccine virtually made him a saint.

This “saint” then spent the next decade badmouthing and discrediting the work of Sabin and his team.

A WHO Star Is Born

Nonetheless, it was quickly realized that Salk’s vaccine caused many dangerous side effects and was less effective than Sabin’s, so even the United States eventually conceded and began to use Sabin’s vaccine exclusively.

Within a decade, polio was virtually eradicated in the United States and the Soviet Union.

Keep in mind, however, that as tragic as polio was for some children, 99.9% of kids who got the poliovirus survived, and only 0.04% had some form of muscle paralysis, including temporary muscle weakness.

In 1952, the worst year for polio in the United States, a total of just 58,000 cases were reported, and more than half of those people never had any muscle weakness or paralysis at all.

Simply put, the fact that polio primarily struck rich white kids made this statistically niche disease a top fear in America’s mind. 

Kids had a greater chance of drowning in the 1940s and 1950s than becoming paralyzed by polio, but polio was deemed to be one of the biggest threats in the entire country, second only to international Communism.

And that is why eradicating polio was made a top priority of the World Health Organization in 1948 when it was created.

Alphabet Soup

With Sabin’s vaccine widely available by the end of the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union spearheaded a campaign to eradicate polio globally.

The charitable organization Rotary International also took up the banner. Working with the WHO and then UNICEF, they formed the GPEI or Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

At first, the plan was to roll out mass-scale vaccinations, which is what happened in the United States, Canada, and the Soviet Union. However, it soon became clear that this was simply not feasible due both to the cost and the logistics.

To make it easier and cheaper, they did away with the attenuated virus vaccine because it requires an injection with a syringe. Instead, they used the much cheaper “inactivated” vaccine which could be administered with two drops of a liquid on the tongue. As such, it is often called the OPV or Oral Polio Vaccine.

At first, the GPEI was a roaring success. Polio cases plunged dramatically, especially in industrialized countries. And polio virtually ceased to exist in a lot of developing countries, too, especially in Asia and the Americas.

But it seemed to hang on stubbornly in the very poorest areas of the world, including Pakistan and Afghanistan in Central Asia as well as sub-Saharan Africa.

And yes, there were some stumbling blocks along the way such as the time when the Cutter pharmaceutical company fucked up the vaccination by failing to fully “kill” the virus, leading to 250 cases of child paralysis and 10 dead kids.

Later, other more well-known pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis, and Wyeth also suffered problems with faulty vaccines because they failed to fully “kill” the virus.

But still, the number of polio infections dramatically decreased in the latter half of the 20th century.

Today, the WHO touts a magical estimation of 16 million people saved from getting sick thanks to the polio vaccine while GPEI’s number is 18 million.

But Along Comes Mary

In December 2016, I was tasked with fact-checking a lengthy white paper on Nigeria’s progress towards meeting its Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is the eradication of polio.

The report stated that there had been zero cases of polio in Nigeria in 2016 and that the country had been “polio-free” for two years. Had Nigeria managed to complete another year without any cases, it was thought that the UN would officially declare polio eradicated in Nigeria, a major SDG milestone.

Unfortunately, a handful of polio cases in Borno State had popped up in late 2016, so those SDG figures had to be amended.

Fast forward to this year when the UN Secretary-General declared all of Africa to be “polio-free” because no other new cases had appeared on the continent since those in Nigeria in 2016.

Success, am I right?

Well, not quite.

What the UN was referring to was what is known as “wild” polio being eradicated. Wild polio refers to a strain of poliovirus that appears naturally, from the “wild.”

Vaccine-derived polio (VDP), on the other hand, is most definitely on the rise, especially in Africa. In fact, 17 countries in Africa are suffering from VDP outbreaks right this minute.

So you can see what a bitter joke it is when the UN declared Africa “polio-free” this year. If your kid ends up paralyzed for life, it really doesn’t matter if it is from “wild” polio or vaccine-derived polio.

VDP is caused by administering an OPV (oral polio vaccine) that is improperly “inactivated.” As such, it multiplies and spreads, resulting in an outbreak of polio.

For the past 30 years, VDP is responsible for 99% of all polio cases while “wild” polio barely registers.

This article from Bill Gates’s Foundation at the end of 2019 about sums it up:

New cases of polio linked to the oral vaccine have been reported in four African countries and more children are now being paralyzed by vaccine-derived viruses than those infected by viruses in the wild, according to global health numbers.

In developing countries the oral vaccine is used due to its low cost and accessibility, needing only two drops per dose. In western countries, a more expensive, injectable version of the vaccine – which contains an inactivated virus incapable of causing the disease – is used as a preventative.

A report released earlier this month by the Independent Monitoring Board, which independently assesses the GPEI’s work and progress toward polio eradication, claimed that the vaccine-derived virus was causing an uncontrolled outbreak in west Africa.

The report found “the strategy is already failing badly on the goal of reducing, and ultimately eliminating, vaccine-derived polioviruses” and argued that new strategies are needed to tackle the polio epidemic.

Of course, since World War 3 began, all that has been put on the back burner, with many polio vaccination programs completely stopped this year.

And poor old Nigeria continues to suffer from polio even to this day.

What Next?

The grand poobahs who worship the Germ Theory of Disease believe, of course, that doubling or trebling the number of OPV vaccinations is the only solution to eradicating polio, both the “wild” version and the vaccine-derived version.

Furthermore, they continue to advocate for increased hygiene, especially for people living in places where polio outbreaks are still a problem.

But nobody wants to inquire too much into what causes myelitis, the inflammation of the spinal cord that leads to muscle weakness and paralysis.

Polio may be a long-forgotten memory in Western countries, but cases of myelitis continue to rise. Instead of polio, mysterious illnesses like Guillain-Barre Syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, and Lyme disease are now blamed.

And rather than blindly following Koch’s faulty postulates and assuming that a single virus is to blame for any given case of myelitis (and thus preventable with a vaccine), much more effort needs to be paid to discovering how to better treat spinal cord inflammation.

Furthermore, it is interesting that there is a strong correlation between so-called “Long Covid” this year and other myelitis diseases, especially because there is no known link between the coronavirus and the poliovirus.

Nonetheless, the seeming “triumph” and “near-total success” of developing a vaccine against the poliovirus in the 20th century led the immunology community to begin believing that vaccines were the single-most effective way to stop all disease outbreaks, something that all of us living in the year 2020 know way too much about.

Unfortunately, as we just learned, the polio vaccine has made things worse, not better. And the attempt to find a vaccine for malaria was even more of a disaster, as we shall see in our next segment.

You can read the next part here.

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