Let us first define polio. The CDC states that 95% of poliomyelitis cases are asymptomatic. 4% of cases may experience gastrointestinal symptoms. Only 0.5% of cases experience any form of paralysis. 
Polio is an enterovirus, which means it is swallowed, can cause symptoms in the gut, but is normally resolved without lasting disabilitiesc, and it is only when this virus gets into the bloodstream and then the nervous system that it can cause paralysis and damage. So how does this happen? Most scientists and mainstream sources admit they do not know: “The mechanisms by which poliovirus spreads to the CNS are poorly understood, but it appears to be primarily a chance event…” 
This blog should be titled “Timeline of Paralysis” instead of polio, mainly because we’ll be going over the historical records of paralysis starting in the 1800’s. But polio works well in a way, because it started out as a term describing a set of symptoms, and really had nothing to do with a virus. It’s important to know this. There are medical records available to us and many doctors kept meticulous descriptions of what was going on with their patients, way back in the 1600s, so we do have an idea of what things were like back then. Documentation was very important to them because a lot of the time, they were writing down novel symptoms and making discoveries, so to say that paralysis went unnoticed is a stretch. There are very few records of childhood paralysis to be found until the late 1800s.
So the question becomes, how did this virus that leaves 95% of people completely unaffected, suddenly become capable of paralyzing its victims in so short a time? Did all 3 strains mutate and gain the ability to cross the gut barrier and get into the CNS at the same time? Did humans suddenly become more genetically susceptible to this virus? All humans? Across continents and the entire world? Both of these scenarios are highly unlikely. Unlikely as in impossible.
1835 In the summer, in the center of England, a physician by the name of Charles Badham wrote about a disturbing illness. Four children, all under the age of 3, had come down with paralysis, mainly in their lower extremities. All of them appeared healthy otherwise. A physician in Germany read Badham’s account and began to notice symptoms among patients he and his colleagues were treating. By 1840, he had accumulated 14 different accounts of people–mostly children–who had experienced paralysis of their legs, sometimes arms. Like Badham, he was struck by their youth and otherwise robust health. He created a 78 page monograph, complete with illustrations of the stricken children, in an attempt to draw attention to this strange disorder. It is now a free e-book. It won’t make sense unless you can read German, but the illustrations are there (towards the bottom). 
Sporadic reports of infantile paralysis occurs in the literature over the next 50 years. Patterns began to appear: always during the summer, almost always the young and healthy. Other symptoms commonly surfaced alongside the new illness that defied explanation. Mainly, teething. In fact, teething was so commonly associated with paralysis, that it was called “teething paralysis.”
In the early 1800’s a popular medicine entered the market called “Steedman’s Teething Powders”. Each packet contained 47 mg of mercury chloride powder to be placed on the back of the infant’s tongue and washed down with milk or water.
I think it’s difficult for us in the modern world to understand how ubiquitous mercury was in every form of medicine. It wasn’t a few fringe quacks, offering a dangerous substance to people in the name of curing their ills. It was as common as tylenol is today, and just as “useful”. The main approach to all maladies back then was purging, and blood letting. It was the first and sometimes only approach. Mercury is very effective at cleaning out your bowels, and it was in every pill, every powder, every “cure”, and if your symptoms weren’t made better, the dose was increased.
The symptoms of mercury toxicity include paralysis.
1876 A surgeon by the name of Charles Taylor published a 119-page work illuminating a phenomenon he and his colleagues had begun to notice more of: infantile paralysis. “There seems to be no doubt that this disease is much more frequent now, and in this country, than formerly, and is rapidly increasing.” 
Poliomyelitis is three words in one. Polio means gray (for gray matter of brain and spinal cord), myelos is marrow, and itis means inflammation. Poliomyelitis is a description of a set of symptoms, mainly inflammation of the gray matter of the spinal cord, and wasn’t connected to a virus until much later. It’s a description with multiple causes, just like meningitis is today. Meningitis is also inflammation, but it’s inflammation of the meninges of the spinal cord and brain, caused by pneumococcal bacteria, meningococcal bacteria, hemophilus influenza type b, some viruses, and even some fungi.
The criteria needed to be met for a diagnosis of poliomyelitis was “partial or complete paralysis of one or more muscle groups, detected on two examinations at least 24 hrs apart.” 
1889 The residents of the small town of Medford, Massachusetts, woke up one morning in early May, to discover their trees and every other available vegetation stripped completely clean by catepillars that would later become gypsy moths. Everything was stripped bare. The devastation is difficult to describe. The town fought back with every available method at their disposal. They were desperate, and rightly so. Here is a picture of men trying to save some of the trees:
1892 Lead arsenate was developed to fight the plague of the gypsy moth. Paris Green was the most popular pesticide of the time before this year, but it was no match for the gypsy moth. So they kept the arsenic and added lead to form something far more toxic in an attempt to kill this horrible caterpillar that was getting way out of hand.
Throughout that year, word quickly spread about the promise of this miraculous new pesticide. The ingredients were readily available at any local druggist and with the spring of 1893 fast approaching, spraying began to fan out from Medford and beyond in a furious attempt to stop the moth’s spread. With Medford at the epicenter, a veneer of lead arsenate was dropped onto almost all living foliage for miles.
In November of that year, a foreboding article appeared in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. It was called, “Is Acute Poliomyelitis Unusually Prevalent This Season?” 
Lead arsenate basically does 2 things. One, it increases the poracity (permeability) of the gut. The problem with that is you can get whatever is in the gut into the bloodstream. The second problem, is a very specific toxic effect on the anterior horn cells of the spinal column, exactly the place that is effected with polio. Wouldn’t this be a plausible explanation for how the virus enters the central nervous system? Especially since we can track polio outbreaks to towns that were heavily sprayed that same spring? But instead of considering this possibility and investigating it more, mainstream doctors and historians would rather say it’s “poorly understood”.
1916 marks the greatest, most deadly polio outbreak the world had yet seen. “New York City experienced the first large epidemic of polio, with over 9,000 cases and 2,343 deaths. The 1916 toll nationwide was 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths.”  This rate of death and injury is over 25% compared to 0.5%. What caused this increased rate?
This epidemic is often blamed on “immigrants” but upon closer examination, the epidemic began before the immigrants arrived. The epicenter of this deadly outbreak is, coincidentally, 3 miles from a Rockerfeller laboratory where scientists were experimenting with the poliovirus in an attempt to make it “more virulent.” 
So then they go on for years, doctors, scientists, and the public all in a sort of panic as the numbers rise and fall each summer and fall, no one knows how it’s contracted or spread, it has this crazy distribution pattern, mostly on the Eastern seaboard, around candy stores, on farms. Some doctors get a better handle on it, actually curing people and publishing their findings, but the larger group thinkers ignored these doctors for the most part. Then we see a big spike in the 1940s with FDR and the March of Dimes. This entire time, there was a huge contingent of doctors saying, “This is not an infectious disease at all, this is a neurotoxin.”
1939 Paul Muller, a chemist in Switzerland, was trying to find a chemical strong enough to kill the potato beetle threatening their potato crops. He discovered that DDT was quite powerful and brought it into popularity (it was actually first created much earlier). They discovered it literally killed everything, and was a much better option than lead arsenate because you couldn’t wash it off. There were claims that it would still kill insects 5 years after its first application.
It’s difficult to describe the utter abandon with which DDT was used after it gained popularity in the 1940s. You could buy wallpaper soaked in DDT, your fruit and vegetables were heavily sprayed, trucks drove the streets, fumigating clouds of bubble gum smelling spray which children “frolicked” in. It was literally everywhere.
DDT also has the two characteristics of increasing the poracity of the gut lining, and it also has a toxic effect on the anterior horn of the spinal column, the exact way that polio does. In fact, the symptoms of DDT toxicity and polio are eerily similar.
- Paresthesia (paralysis) in the extremities
- Hand weakness
- Liver damage
“There are two possibilities. One: polio was a harmless viral infection in people with a normal, healthy, intact gut. You feed them lead arsenate and DDT; it increases the poracity of their gut wall and the combination of this anterior cell toxin and the toxicity of the virus that gives you polio. The other possibility is that it had nothing to do with the virus at all and it was simply a toxicological problem. There were many many doctors at the time testifying, going before congress begging them to stop the distribution of lead arsenate and DDT. Eventually, that’s what they did, and that was the end of polio. This happened in the early 1960s.” -Thomas Cowan, MD
1955 Criteria for the diagnosis of poliomyelitis became more stringent. If there was no residual paralysis 60 days after onset, the disease was not considered to be polio. “Furthermore, diagnostic procedures have continued to be refined. Coxsackie virus and aseptic meningitis have been distinguished from paralytic poliomyelitis. Prior to 1954, large numbers of these cases were mislabeled as paralytic poliomyelitis. Thus, simply by changes in diagnostic criteria, the number of paralytic cases were predetermined to decrease in 1955-1957, whether or not any vaccine was used.” 
1955 Jonas Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine first introduced. It was not properly inactivated (see my next post for more details).
1961 Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine first introduced (same formulation still used today–some say it is more pure, but that is debatable–now causes more cases of paralysis in the areas it is being administered than the wild polio virus–see link below from WHO).
1972 DDT officially banned in the US after a long, drawn out fight to get it discontinued.  Still allowed to be used in very specific instances. For example, it was used in 1979 to suppress flea vectors of bubonic plague in California. 
1979 Last case of wild polio identified in the US. We have not had a wild case here since then.
2000 Oral polio vaccine discontinued in US after environmentalists complained and fought to have it removed after finding the virus in our rivers and oceans and it was tracked back to the vaccine.
Present Day I will cover this more thoroughly in my next post, but for now, here is a little glimpse of polio outbreaks in the world up until Oct 2019 by the World Health Organization.
Editing this December 2021 as I just discovered the link above now takes you to a WHO notice about how they have revamped their website and I can no longer find where they are tracking polio outbreaks and documenting whether it is wild strain or vaccine derived. Here is the archived version dating back to September 2020. Unfortunately I cannot find anything more recent than that as their website changed the summer of this year, and nothing has been documented for 2021.
- James J. Putnam, M.D., and Edward Wyllys Taylor, M.D. “Is Acute Poliomyelitis Unusually Prevalent This Season?” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. CXXIX, No. 21, November 23, 1893.