As a young woman, Barbara Krumm spent two weeks in a polio isolation ward at an Eau Claire, Wisconsin hospital.
“I was really sick, and I don't remember a lot of it,” the 84-year-old New Richmond woman said. “It was a lot of kids crying and kind of a nightmare.”
“It’s probably a good thing I don’t remember it all,” she added
The year was 1952, and Krumm was among the tens of thousands of children nationwide who were infected with the debilitating virus. She endured weeks of treatment, including having boiling-hot rags placed on her limbs daily before therapists would work to loosen her muscles.
It’s a fate untold more children have been spared thanks to the polio vaccine and a willing public dedicated to eradicating the disease.
For National Immunization Awareness Month in August, health officials are highlighting vaccines as a safe and effective way to prevent potentially deadly diseases.
Krumm’s message this month is simple: “It’s very, very important to get your vaccinations.”
The fear of living through the polio epidemic is still vivid for Krumm, but the effectiveness of vaccines has meant younger generations haven’t had to face a similar ordeal.
“Many people are unaware of the devastation and deaths that occurred from becoming infected with polio, diphtheria and measles in the not too distant past,” according to Sue Lindberg, a public health nurse with St. Croix County Public Health. “Unfortunately, these deadly diseases are still out there and that is why being fully immunized is so important.”
There were 1,172 confirmed cases of measles in 30 states from Jan. 1 to Aug. 1, 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though Wisconsin and Minnesota were not on the list this year, 2019 marks the most cases in the U.S. since 1992 and the most since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.
Lindberg said parents choosing not to vaccinate their children and countries not providing vaccinations are putting the world at risk for a dangerous outbreak.
A number of vaccines are recommended for children and adults for diseases such as whooping cough, pneumonia, human papilloma virus and influenza. The CDC has immunization resources and schedules at www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
To find a pharmacy, health department or clinic offering vaccines, visit http://vaccinefinder.org.