(Undated) -- From nearly 60,000 cases at its peak, to completely eradicated, the Polio Virus wreaked havoc on an entire generation in the U.S.
The neuro-muscular disease affected tens of thousands of children before Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine. Nearly 60 years after the vaccine was introduced, a survivor of the virus is continuing to educate the public on how to help fellow survivors. Stanley Johnson was diagnosed with Polio when he was just 3 years old and doesn't have much memory of being afflicted with the condition. Johnson says the virus struck quickly.
"Polio attacked very vigorously," said Johnson. "The people that can remember when they came down with it, most of them will tell you that they maybe were feeling a little tired or achy in the afternoon and maybe just rested in the evening. They would wake up the next morning totally unable to walk. That's what my case was, although I can't really remember it."
According to the World Health Organization, Polio reached its peak in the U.S. with 58,000 cases and nearly 3,200 deaths in 1953. There have been no reported cases in the U.S. since 1979, and Johnson says the virus has plagued mankind for thousands of years.
"Polio is traced back over 3,000 years, but we had epidemics in the late 1880s," said Johnson. "A major epidemic here in the U.S. started in about 1947 or '48. I say an epidemic -- it was almost panic -- because it just kept escalating until '54 or '55. We had close to 60,000 cases a year."
Salk's vaccine was developed in 1951 and was approved by the FDA in 1955. Johnson says the vaccine had a huge impact on Polio in the U.S.
"Once that came out, we had mass immunizations," said Johnson. "People would go to usually the local armory or a public gathering place. A lot of older people can remember standing in line and getting a drop of the vaccine on a white sugar cube."
Polio lingers with the host for long after the disease's initial onslaught. Post-Polio Syndrome can develop years or decades after the original case of Polio. People who suffer from PPS often experience a weakening of the muscles that were affected by the original Polio virus, leading to partial or complete loss of control. Johnson says Polio survivors are at risk for PPS because the original Polio virus destroyed an extra nerves that the person may have had.
"When we're born, we have 50 percent -- at least -- more nerve endings than we need in our muscles," said Johnson. "The Polio destroyed those. It would be like us driving our cars without a spare tire. Our nerves start degenerating at age 35, so we survivors do not have all of those extra nerve endings to rely on."
Worldwide, there are still around 350 cases of Polio reported each year in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For more information about the virus, visit the World Health Organization's website.
You can view the full interview with Johnson on the Dean and Don Show by clicking on the video below.