Amongst the forms of Degeneration of the Muscular Tissue the reader will have noticed that of Infantile Paralysis or Poliomyelitis.
The startling prominence that this complaint quite recently acquired was due to its world-wide ravages in epidemic form and the absolute and confessed inability of the combined sagacity of the whole faculty of the orthodox medical profession to cope with it or to cure it—to fathom its cause and origin or to curtail its increasing rate of mortality. I am therefore constrained, so far as space permits, to give the matter special and particular consideration.
The scientific name, “Poliomyelitis,” is derived from the Greek words: polios, grey and myleos, marrow; for its chief feature is a softening of the grey spinal marrow.
First noticed by the medical world no later than the year 1840, statistics show that in the last decade it has appeared in various parts of the world in epidemic form, notably in Sweden and Norway. In America, epidemics occurred in 1907 and 1908 and again in 1916. It was promptly and energetically dealt with by the Rockefeller Institute of New York where the proof was established of the possibility of transmission by a living virus taken from the spinal marrow of a victim; but whether this disseminator may be correctly termed a bacillus, or fungus or a germ, medical-science has been unable lo determine; neither has it succeeded with the most powerful microscope in discovering the individuality of this “carrier,” whilst all experiments with re-agents have been bare of results. Thus the researches of science have merely brought us back to the starting point; namely, that there is a “something” which exerts a degenerating influence upon the cellular tissue of the spinal marrow and causes the morbid enlargement of its cells.
The New York Board of Health, cites eight different forms in which the disease may appear and acknowledges a startling failure to determine either any uniform period of incubation (i.e. the time between contagion and the appearance of the symptoms,) or the period of infection (i.e. how long a sick person may be a danger to others).
The New York press accepts the situation philosophically; as follows:
“Infantile Paralysis cannot be cured by means of medicines. The physician must of necessity limit his ministrations to easing the pain, providing for easy movement of the bowels and so forth, but otherwise he must let nature take its course.”
Medical reference books vaguely define the disease with diverse and indefinite theories, showing that science on the subject is practically mute.
But the medically “unprofessional,” random remark of the New York press-man has exactly hit the mark: “Let nature take its course.”
The fact is that nothing very clear or absolute can be said about Infantile Paralysis; for observation shows that it is apparently a matter of racial conditions and environment and that only from the general application of the Laws of Nature, as taught by biology can we reasonably hope to solve the problem or cure the disease.