How did polio impact U.S. society during the 1940s?
When polio (poliomyelitis) broke out in the 1940s in the United States, it was not really the monstrous killer which the media depicted. Nevertheless, there was a tangible fear in American parents for their children; they told them not to drink from public water fountains, and to not swim in public pools as polio was transmitted through water. Certainly, there was a legitimate concern generated throughout the population of America as numerous people--even President Roosevelt--had contracted the disease.
Curiously, this disease spread as a result of increasingly better sanitary conditions because, oddly enough, small children had developed immunities heretofore, when exposed to more unsanitary conditions. There were 2,720 deaths from the disease in the United States and 42,173 cases of polio were reported from Canada and the United Kingdom in the epidemic of 1949. Fortunately, it was not long thereafter that Jonas Salk (1952) found a way to inoculate people against polio. Thereafter, the last cases of polio in the United States were reported in 1979 in an Amish community.