JEROMESVILLE -- Until the development and widespread distribution of the polio vaccine (1955 through the 1960s), infantile paralysis (polio) was one of the most feared and highly infectious diseases in America.
Some have compared it to the panic HIV/AIDS would cause in the 1980s. But in this instance, a single case of polio could shut down an entire community.
In February, 1931 such a case occurred in Jeromesville when 9-year-old Quinton Dague fell ill for two days before a doctor diagnosed him with infantile paralysis. Though he had remained home during his illness, the school took quick action and suspended classes indefinitely until health authorities determined it was safe to resume.
A child specialist from Ashland and the County Board of Health physician both came to assist the local doctors. A lecture course scheduled for that week was cancelled, as was the basketball game with Loudonville and several other public events.
Fortunately, the same day as the diagnosis was made a serum arrived by bus and multiple treatments were given to Quinton, who seemed to begin to recover, as well as precautionary treatments for other children in the community.
The usefulness of the serum was controversial in the medical community, as it was harvested from patients who had recovered from polio. The weakened virus, harvested from recovering patients, was then given to new patients with the hope their immune system would be able to suppress it and prevent more serious developments (while similar to the same philosophy of a vaccine, this was administered to already sick patients with weakened immune systems).
Due to the low numbers of recovered patients, some serums, once harvested from the recovered patient, were then "grown" in horses to increase supply levels of the serum.
The serum appeared beneficial to Quinton, who fought in World War II and lived until 1985, but other patients were not so fortunate.
The serum experiments in the 1930s ultimately proved more fatal than the disease itself, and whether or not the serum actually prevented the disease or assisted in recovery was never proven.
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