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Dr. Neustaedter, I have a couple of questions. The first is regarding the renaming of non-paralytic polio to meningitis in the 1950's. I heard about that a few months ago. If it's true of course the stats on polio in this country would not be accurate after that point. Do you know about this? Where could I find more about this? I'm also wondering if you can tell me when they stopped growing the polio virus on rhesus monkey kidneys. Do you believe there might be a link between AIDS and the rhesus monkey as some authors have suggested?

A full discussion of both these issues can be found in the Polio section of my book The Vaccine Guide. The criteria for diagnosing polio did change when the vaccine was introduced in the 1950s and this change in diagnosis apparently reduced the statistic for the number of polio cases dramatically. Monkey kidney cells are used to produce the oral vaccine and controversy rages about the contamination of OPV with monkey viruses. For a complete review of these issues, see the book. Here is one quote from the book.

Dr. Bernard Greenberg, a biostatistics expert, was chairman of the Committee on Evaluation and Standards of the American Public Health Association during the 1950s. He testified at a panel discussion that was used as evidence for the congressional hearings on polio vaccine in 1962. During these hearings he elaborated on the problems associated with polio statistics and disputed claims for the vaccine's effectiveness. He attributed the dramatic decline in polio cases to a change in reporting practices by physicians. Less cases were identified as polio after the vaccination for very specific reasons. "Prior to 1954 any physician who reported paralytic poliomyelitis was doing his patient a service by way of subsidizing the cost of hospitalization and was being community-minded in reporting a communicable disease. The criterion of diagnosis at that time in most health departments followed the World Health Organization definition: "Spinal paralytic poliomyelitis: signs and symptoms of nonparalytic poliomyelitis with the addition of partial or complete paralysis of one or more muscle groups, detected on two examinations at least 24 hours apart." Note that "two examinations at least 24 hours apart" was all that was required. Laboratory confirmation and presence of residual paralysis was not required. In 1955 the criteria were changed to conform more closely to the definition used in the 1954 field trials: residual paralysis was determined 10 to 20 days after onset of illness and again 50 to 70 days after onset.... This change in definition meant that in 1955 we started reporting a new disease, namely, paralytic poliomyelitis with a longer-lasting paralysis. Furthermore, diagnostic procedures have continued to be refined. Coxsackie virus infections and aseptic meningitis have been distinguished from paralytic poliomyelitis. Prior to 1954 large numbers of these cases undoubtedly were mislabeled as paralytic poliomyelitis. Thus, simply by changes in diagnostic criteria, the number of paralytic cases was predetermined to decrease in 1955-1957, whether or not any vaccine was used.

Karin Schumacher
Vaccine Information & Awareness (VIA)
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Any information obtained here is not to be construed as medical OR legal advice. The decision to vaccinate and how you implement that decision is yours and yours alone.

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