Before the Vaccines: Medical Treatments of Acute Paralysis in the 1916 New York Epidemic of Poliomyelitis

Wyatt H.V*
University of Leeds, Leeds LS 2 9HD, England

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© H.V. Wyatt; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the University of Leeds, Le eds LS 2 9HD, England; E-mail:


Hospitals in New York were overwhelmed by the epidemic. With nothing known about the virus, most cases were treated with traditional or symptomatic remedies. New treatments were made though unsuccessful. Serum from various sources was given although it was many years before this was found to be ineffectual. Lumbar puncture was made, sometimes with additions. Although this became standard treatment, there were some who thought it was harmful. Many histories of polio ignore treatment.

Keywords: Lumber puncture, New York, poliomyelitis, serum therapy, treatment.