Coronavirus quarantine familiar for polio survivors

Published: Mar. 29, 2020 at 5:41 PM CDT
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The scare, uncertainty and isolation surrounding COVID-19, is all too familiar for Edna Vetter.

"I just woke up one morning and I couldn't move and this doctor came to the house," Polio Survivor Edna Vetter.

At the age of 25 in the 1950's, Vetter said polio crept into her body.

"I was very lucky," Vetter said. "I didn't have any lung issues are anything like that. Mine was all in my body and my back."

During the first half of the twentieth century, polio arrived each summer, infecting many kid's spinal cord sometimes resulting in paralysis or death.

It was active in warmer months and transmitted through contaminated water.

"And it was rather strange that people in the same family, only one person would get it, and the brothers and sisters and parents might not get it," Appleton Resident Lowell Peterson, M.D. said.

Peterson said before a vaccine was created, polio caused people to be self isolated just like COVID-19.

"Each community had a quarantine officer and that quarantine officer would come confirm the presence of what was felt to be probably the presence of polio and put a quarantine sign on the house," Dr. Peterson said. "Schools were closed, swimming pools were closed, swimming lakes were closed. You were advised to stay away from crowds and theaters."

Peterson believes better days of a vaccine for coronavirus will come just how it did when a cure for polio was created in 1955.

"I don't think there's any question about it, but it's going to take time," said Dr. Peterson. "And it may be a year or more before an effective vaccine can be developed."

Since 1988 there's been a 99.9% decline in polio cases, but the disease still exists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.