polio

Common surgical procedure linked with polio pandemics

Sunday, September 22, 2013 by: Carolanne Wright
Tags: polio pandemic, tonsillectomies, surgical procedure

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Delicious
(NaturalNews) Between 1915 and the 1960s, a tonsillectomy was the most common surgery in the United States, even though the function of the tonsils was fairly ambiguous and misunderstood. By 1938, however, a clear connection was made between the procedure and polio epidemics raging across the land. Today, vaccines receive the credit for all but eliminating this dreaded disease, yet could the decline of tonsillectomies actually be the true reason?

Mysterious function

At the turn of the century, the purpose of the tonsils was completely unknown. It wasn't until the 1960s that researchers began to understand the important role the tonsils played in immunity. As was discovered, tonsils are the first line of defense against pathogens, including poliovirus. Tonsils are filled with lymphocytes which detect harmful intruders and fight off infections. When danger is discovered, the tonsils swell with these guardian cells to ward off the invaders, a process which often causes a sore throat. Physicians mistakenly believed the presence of a chronic sore throat indicated a dysfunction of the tonsils, which lead to the common practice of removing the swollen tissue (also known as a tonsillectomy). Unfortunately, this widespread practice also appears to have increased polio rates.

The connection

By 1951, "a horrifying correlation emerged: children who'd had a tonsillectomy were more likely to get a certain type of polio (infection of the bulbar region of the brain stem) than children who had not had a tonsillectomy," reports Seth Roberts in "Tonsillectomy Confidential." In fact, the chances of contracting the bulbar form of polio tripled for those children who had the procedure. An article published in the Medical Journal of Australia addresses the issue at the height of a worldwide polio pandemic:

". . . the patients who contracted bulbar poliomyelitis during the 1947-1948 poliomyelitis epidemic in South Australia had nearly all undergone tonsillectomy at some time prior to the onset of poliomyelitis, and that in only a few cases was the tonsillectomy recent......The preliminary studies suggested that the association between prior tonsillectomy and bulbar poliomyelitis lasted for five to ten years. In the present paper the completed studies of the 1947-1948 bulbar cases are given, and the association and duration are confirmed."

During the 1950s, public health literature urged individuals not to undergo mouth or throat surgeries during an outbreak of polio, recognizing the correlation. Dr. Borys Tolczynski observes:

"The 1952 outbreak of poliomyelitis in North America had a record-breaking incidence with an estimated 55,000 cases being reported in the United States alone. According to the statistics released by the Provincial Department of Public Health there were 1,223 cases with 455 of paralytic type and 89 deaths. The peak of morbidity and mortality was in August and September - the months of 'tonsillectomy epidemic.'"

Conquering polio

As stated by the the World Health Organization, polio cases have decreased by over 99 percent since 1988. Vaccines are given credit for this extraordinary decline, but it's interesting to note that tonsillectomies also fell during this period of time. For example, in the United Kingdom the tonsillectomy rate dropped by 38 percent between 1991 and 2011. Curiously, polio epidemics were quite rare before the 20th century, as were tonsillectomies.

All in all, the mystery behind the rise and fall of polio is a complex conundrum which is quite polarized within the medical establishment. That said, it's difficult to ignore the correlation between the sweeping use of tonsillectomies and increased polio rates. At the very least, the procedure is a significant piece of the polio puzzle.

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.com

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

http://thehealthcareblog.com

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com

https://entuk.org

http://www.who.int

http://www.whale.to

About the author:
Carolanne believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, wellness coach and natural foods chef, she has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of green living for over 13 years. Through her website www.Thrive-Living.net she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people who share a similar vision.

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