By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Editor, myWestman.ca
NEEPAWA, Man. — My dad was born in 1931 and as a child, he never learned to swim, his mother wouldn’t let him. She wasn’t afraid he’d drown, she was afraid he’d contract polio. The fearful disease could be spread by infected water and left tens of thousands of Canadians with some degree of paralysis.
The virus permanently damages the nerve cells that control muscles and while it can infect people of any age, it poses the largest risk to children under five years of age. Canada had its first case of polio in 1910 and in the following 60 or so years, public health departments tried unsuccessfully to contain the outbreaks that sprung up each year, usually in summer or fall.