Jonathan Wolfman's Blog
FEBRUARY 11, 2013 8:23AM

Polio, Triumphant and Rejoicing

Rate: 11 Flag


     Despite the fact that, thanks to Drs. Salk, Sabin, and the World Health Organization, polio's nearly gone, I tend to read news items having to do with polio and efforts to stop it. Now, when I was very young, because I wore ungainly leg braces designed to remedy my (even now) rather hop-a-long gait, a result of having been born with Achilles tendons of fairly variable lengths (and my natural sense of physical balance being that of a fine drunk), it was initially supposed by my earliest friends that I had had polio. It made for more medical conversation than my earliest friends likely wanted to hear (and more than I'd ever wanted to rehearse over and again) when a new kid would ask me of a schoolyard recess when did I "get over" polio. Yet, however repetitively annoying, it was not, in 1956, the absurd question it would be today on playgrounds everywhere save for those in three nations -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.


     The World Health Organization has had remarkable success in its effort to eradicate polio. Yet in Muslim communities in these three nations, the WHO has met with considerable resistance, some of it lethal and some of it having to with more than superstition or even a general aversion to the West. Last December, reports Donald G. McNeil, Jr. in Saturday's New York Times, nine female polio workers were murdered in Pakistan. And while Near East and Central Asian Muslim aversion to vaccination pre-dates the past decade -- rumors have persisted there, for example, that vaccination is a CIA design to spread AIDS and/or to make Muslim women infertile -- the CIA's actual work in the run-up to killing Osama bin Laden is, for the Taliban and many other Muslims, dispositive. Mr. McNeil, Jr. reports that in "its efforts to track [OBL], the CIA paid a Pakistani doctor to seek entry to [the compound] on the pretext of vaccinating the children -- presumably to get DNA samples as evidence that [we had] the right family."

     Unsurprising, then, that polio workers haven't been greeted warmly in those communities for whom Osama bin Laden was a hero, now a martyr. Until December, though, polio workers were not known to be targets. However, just last week killers shot at least nine polio workers at two clinics in northern Nigeria. Most of the dead were women, shot in the back of the head. The militant Muslim militia, Boko Haram, is suspected in the incident.

     While I hope not to read of more such murders, I'm betting I will, leaving not the West, not reactionary elements of Islam, but polio, triumphant and rejoicing.




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History is often about these kinds of horrid, unpredictable consequences.
What an awful, tangled tale JW. Using medical aid workers as proxy agents should be off-limits for the CIA. That just feeds the conviction of those who see an omnipotent CIA behind virtually everything. But that doesn't excuse the ignorant, superstitious elements of fanatical Islam. I suspect you're right that polio will return and those societies will have to learn the hard way what it takes to eradicate it.
Abra uhmhmm tragic on so many levels. Thanks!
Yes, this is a sad & unbelievable turn of events.
Clay boy, it sure is. Thank you.
Horrid. Profit, politics and religion should be left out of all health decisions. Stuff like this is barbaric at every level.
So close, but yet so far. It's sometimes hard to believe that we're all one world.
This is troubling stuff, which I have heard rumors of.
Rumors of 'resistance', but not, for chrissakes,
murder of polio workers.

Why why do they think we are spreading diseases on them
when we are trying to ensure they are healthy?

I suppose it has to do with tricky international politics. u say, "horrid, unpredictable consequences."
history backsliding.
polio is back.

Armageddon the religious fools speak of: plagues and such.
well, here they are.
What is next, the sleeping dormant Black Plague back?
That one wiped out a third of Europe.
the next one , and all the other ones, will wipe out
our Third World friends as AIDS
is now scything her way thru
the homeland, the place
we came from,

shit. You bring such good news always.
I thought polio was irradicated?

I remember those frightening years. Children couldn't go to pools or beaches...oh it was awful! My cousin contracted it anyhow.

And then to hear it is prevelant in third world countries!!!

This is was mutates these viruses so it is to all our advanteges to keep an eye on the problem.
Dianne it has been eradicated except for in the three countries I name here: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It's GONE in the rest of the world.
Thanks for reminding me of this. I am of an age that I know/knew many people with polio born in the late 40s and 50s who still suffer the consequences, as well as post-polio syndrome. Thanks for this great post. Our hope we can totally eradicate it someday.
Amy sure hope so. Thanks!
My sister, born in 1944, had polio as a child. I recall it being a subject of public health scares and I'm 7 years younger than her.
Con I sure recall those fears.
Throughout my childhood, nobody could fully enjoy summer. Finally Americans made perhaps their greatest contribution ever to humanity, and look how it has been received. This world is hopeless.
Arthur you're remarkable: our work has been welcomed in all but THREE nations and yet you're so damned sour on this. On bright, sunny days in June, you must wear a parka.
When I posted my comment, it was with some trepidation, because I thought you might respond as usual with an ad hominem attack. How could I have been so foolish?
Arthur you're free to comment here pretty much as you wish; I'm free to be amazed at your negativity in the face of an overall positive polio situation, worldwide, and I'm free to say so. Feel free, too, to characterize my response as ad hominem or any other Latin-II phrase you like.
Wait till the attitude demonstrated in those three countries spreads to other countries that are mired in the 7th century. Don't call me too pessimistic just yet. Wait a while.
Very superstitious beliefs abound here...much stranger than fiction. Well done, J!
Arthur should this spread, the worse for the kids of those lands. I hold no brief for the killers; that you seem to think I am excusing the butchery is odd. No one else here suggests that. What ypu need to understand is the difference betw explanation and defendind (in this case, the indefensible). Historical acts have unintended, often awful, collateral consequences. As for the CIA and OBL, I am all for having taken the man out. Everyone here also seems to get that. too.
Where did I say that you excused the butchery?
[r] jonathan, thanks for bringing attention to this story, it got so quickly buried, of course, in the corporate matrix. This should have been the story in Zero Dark Thirty and the CIA track down of bin Laden, not the "torture worked' propaganda!!! Horrifying punishment for those trying to help our global fellow humans absolutely inexcusable, but there goes the CIA with its total disrespect for people and for unintended horrifying consequences and for instigating as much unrest wherever it can because a weak country is fodder for down and dirty exploitation and eventual occupation or covert occupation at least with client puppets! The drones don't help the trust to "outsiders" either keep in mind. I'm thinking pretty much destroy it. best, libby
libby i 'd be open, of course, to hearing other ways to have tested for OBL- DNA prior to the raid (a raid which I believe was wholly justified despite this very unfortunate collateral result).
wow-jonathan, even after hearing these consequences, you endorse the path the CIA took?

and the nightmare scenarios of destabilization the CIA perpetrates all over the world, having become a paramilitary organization rather than an intelligence organization with its own private fleet of drones and so much secrecy to negotiate and consort with "elements" the government establishment would never cop to, like al-Qaeda linked jihadists so they can cause regime change? friends with oppressive regimes who are "friends" of the usa to help them in their dirty dealings with their oppressed.

thank you for posting this story re the polio and the devastation caused by the obl trackdown.

we certainly part ways on our regard of the CIA and the "ends justifies the means" sensibility.

Lib let me be clear: I do not celebrate any nurse's murder nor any child's polio as a result of a horrid combination of cultural ignorance AND justified tribal skepticism about western organizations, whether the CIA or the WHO. As can be demonstrated fully, that antipathy to western medicine and the World Health Organization among some Muslim groups long predates 2001 let alone drones.

At the same time, I am saying I am wholly supportive of the decision to kill OBL and I regret that in the run up to that the CIA used tactics that reinforced antipathy toward WHO/Western medicine and I would have hoped the CIA would have found a way to get, if possible, thw DNA w.o compromising the WHO.
This phenomena, known as backlash will continue to be part and parcel of our newsday, I fear for as long as any of us here reading this will live.
The possibility of a mutated virus developing and spreading due to decreased immunology concerns worldwide is not of minor consequence.
aka an interesting point!
Very sad. We have the brain capacity to produce a polio vaccine and envision wiping out the disease, but enough people use their brains for shit instead.