Before a vaccine was developed in 1955, polio was one of the most feared diseases -- killing some young victims while leaving many others paralyzed. An excerpt from The Post of July 10, 1945:
By Dorothea Andrews
An Arlington mother who watched her 11-year-old daughter die within five days after she was stricken with poliomyelitis yesterday detailed symptoms of her illness so that "all mothers will know what to watch for, if that awful disease hits their children." Her first-hand report on polio came as six new cases of the disease were reported in the Washington metropolitan area. ...
This brings the total of cases reported so far this year in the District to nine, with nine more in the area adjoining the District. Three of the cases were reported in the late afternoon yesterday. ...
Anita Louise Springer, the District's first polio casualty this year, died in Walter Reed Hospital early Sunday morning, less than three days after her illness was diagnosed as bulbar poliomyelitis, described as the "killing" type of the paralysis. Yesterday, her mother, Mrs. Robert M. Springer, described the symptoms Anita showed in the pre-diagnostic period as she waited at her home, 4806 Old Dominion Dr., Arlington, for the return of her husband.
Colonel Springer, who has been on duty in the European theater ... is scheduled to arrive here in time for private funeral services for his youngest daughter on Wednesday morning.
Anita, who had finished fifth grade work at John Marshall Elementary School in Arlington this spring, had spent a quiet summer at home, Mrs. Springer said. She had ridden her bicycle on errands to the store, she had done a lot of swimming at a nearby pool, and she had played in the cool woods near the Springer home. ...
Last Sunday, Mrs. Springer, Anita, and another daughter, Patricia, 16, went down to Union Station to see Robert Springer jr. off for West Point where he is entering as a first year student. There were crowds at the station, and Anita complained when she returned home that she "wasn't hungry" and would just like some ice cream.
On Monday, one of the hottest days of the year, she went to have her hair cut, and returned home her face beaded with perspiration. On that day, she said she just "couldn't eat" and drank a lot of cold drinks in lieu of food.
On Tuesday she stayed in bed, complaining of nausea, and a headache "all over her head." The headache, Mrs. Springer said, seemed to be centered in the cerebrum. She also had a high fever and remained on a liquid diet.
The headache disappeared the following day, but the fever remained high. Mrs. Springer said her daughter woke her at 6 o'clock Thursday morning to say that she had not been able to sleep at all, and that she had a fever of 104. A doctor was summoned who prescribed sulfa drugs. Later that day, Anita complained that she could not swallow. She talked oddly, her mother said, as though she had no roof in her mouth. Words came out in guttural fashion, with no clear break between them.
The child's throat filled with heavy mucus, Mrs. Springer said, and she again summoned the doctor. Anita was taken to Walter Reed Hospital Thursday night, and given oxygen, fed intravenously. But once her illness was diagnosed as bulbar poliomyelitis, physicians admitted their inability to do much in treating it. She died early Sunday morning.
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