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Polio and the CDC

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Polio has played a unique role in the history of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, perhaps more than any other disease since the 1950s. Shortly after the agency’s creation, CDC established a national polio surveillance unit [PSU] headed by CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service [EIS] founder Dr. Alexander D. Langmuir. CDC worked collaboratively with Dr. Jonas Salk, of the University of Pittsburgh, who developed the inactivated polio vaccine in the early 1950s, and Dr. Albert Sabin, who developed the oral polio vaccine in the early 1960s. CDC’s PSU staff and EIS officers worked to administer both the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines in the field, and also gather and analyze surveillance data. These important vaccination and surveillance efforts and later national mass vaccination programs led to the elimination of polio in the U.S. by 1979 and elimination from the Americas by 1994.

This archive chronicles the polio program by adding depth to traditional archives through the use of personal stories from the public health workers on the frontlines.

The links above connect you to a database or oral histories, photographs, documents and other media.

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