Poliomyelitis – One of the Deadliest Virus

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Updated: Mar 31, 2023
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Deadly viruses and pathogens have been around for various years. One of the deadliest and most recent outbreaks is the Ebola virus, which is still occurring now. Although the spread of Ebola has decreased due to the biomedical research that has been done, it still continues to sicken others. Despite the fact that biomedical research has done a lot in terms of treatments for viruses, there is also controversy surrounding it. This controversy stems from mistakes that have occurred in research, and because of this, people have begun to oppose research on viruses.

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We can reach a balance between the safety of the world and researching viruses by having more uptight security.

Since viruses have been here for several years, it has impacted human civilization in many different ways. In the past, when there was no knowledge of these viruses’ people used to think these outbreaks were caused by angry gods and tried to pray them away. However, when this proved to be futile, people began to ignore each other when someone was sick from fear of it being spread to them. One example of this is the Black Plague. The black Plague occurred in the mid-1300s. The virus came from 12 ships returning from the black sea; it docked at the Sicilian Port of Messenia. Most sailors on those ships were either dead or on the brink of it because of illness.

The illness quickly spread and affected twenty million people over the next five years in Europe. The virus came with aches, pains, painful swellings, and many more symptoms, eventually ending with death. Society at the time responded with fear; most people thought the virus was god’s punishment. Some responded with violence, seeking forgiveness from god by purging their communities. They did this by murdering thousands of Jews. Furthermore, people began to avoid each other for fear of catching the virus, and family and friends would avoid each other, never visiting when one was ill. Society started to become violent and secluded. Furthermore, this caused some long-term impacts, the population got lower because of the deaths, and wages became higher because of this. It also had a cultural effect, turning it towards negativity, art depicting the pessimism from that time.

Furthermore, there have also been contemporary breakthroughs in viruses, those being the study of it. For instance, some major breakthroughs were those of treatments found for Ebola, the polio vaccine, and treatments found for other viruses. One of the first treatments, variolation, was popular in the 18th century. People living in that era would take material from infected people and use it to infect others in a mild way. They would create small cuts on someone’s body and infect them by putting the material in the open wound. This method was used for smallpox, and when deliberately infecting a person, that person would essentially be sick for two to four weeks, then go away, thus making the person immune to the virus.

However, this method of curing smallpox was replaced by the vaccine developed by Edward Jenner. Edward Jenner was an English doctor who began the study of a smallpox vaccine. Jenner found out that people who had suffered from cowpox became immune to smallpox and tried to prove his hypothesis by infecting a local boy with cowpox, then exposing him to smallpox. However, the boy did not become infected with smallpox; now that Jenner had this information, he created a “vaccine” and proceeded to vaccinate many children, even his own son. Furthermore, Louis Pasteur, a scientist, discovered that microorganisms’ activity caused diseases to arise (germ theory). He studied deadly pathogens, and from his research, he learned how to create a vaccine by weakening microbes involved with viruses.

The Polio Vaccine in the 20th century came to be because of the research scientists put in. For example, Albert Sabin, one of the scientists who researched the vaccine, stated in a 1956 paper featured in a journal of the “American Medical Association,” “approximately 9,000 monkeys, 150 chimpanzees, and 133 human volunteers have been used thus far in the quantitative studies”. These studies were necessary to ensure there would be a vaccine created to eliminate Polio.

The epidemic of Polio occurred in the early 1900s, although it has been proven to date back to even before that. Although the polio death rate was low, with an overall rate of 15-30%, there were serious long-term effects caused by it. Those who survived the polio illness either completely recovered, or some were left with paralysis and deformities; this commonly affected young children, devastating their families. However, in 1953 a scientist by the name of Jonas Salk finally found a vaccine to prevent the further spread of Polio. Salk used test subjects for his vaccine, including himself, his family, and polio survivors; because of his research and vaccine, Polio has almost completely been eradicated.

Furthermore, viruses and deadly pathogens have also been used as weapons in warfare and terrorism over time. They have deliberately been used for homicidal purposes. For example, the work of the Japanese military, unit 731, deliberately used deadly pathogens during WW11. Unit 731 used biological warfare on Chinese prisoners and civilians. These biological warfare experiments were always gruesome. One of the experiments they conducted was infecting tens of thousands of Chinese prisoners and civilians with Yersinia Pestis and Typhus. They wanted these viruses to spread from person to person and lower the population in some areas; they also wanted to breed a lethal weapon from this.

Furthermore, what they did to the people who they would shoot survivors of the diseases and those who quickly got sick had been bled to death. Unit 731 had collected the blood from their victims and transferred it to other prisoners. In addition, when unit 731 was finally satisfied with the Plague, they had bread and bacillus, and they had let the last of the infected prisoners become exposed to fleas. Unit 731 then captured these fleas that had sucked on the infected victims’ blood, put the fleas in bomb casings, and then proceeded to drop these bombs on a Chinese village, Quzhou. This attack leads to several deaths, approximately more than 3,000. Their use of biological warfare cost many lives and was extremely gruesome.

One more recent outbreak was the zika virus. The zika virus was first found in Uganda in 1947. The zika virus is spread by Aedes mosquitoes and can be sexually transmitted; symptoms include joint pain, rash, redness in the eyes, and fever. However, not all people infected with the virus will show symptoms. Furthermore, pregnant women infected with the virus may give birth to children with birth defects, some being microcephaly, which causes underdevelopment of the head and brain damage. The most recent outbreak of the zika virus occurred in the United States in 2016. Although the zika virus is not deadly, it does have a fatality rate of 8.3%.

Furthermore, the current state of viral research has advanced over the years due to the studies being conducted by scientists. However, there are dangers that come with researching viruses. For example, there has been a lift on a federal ban that once prevented researchers from making lethal viruses. In the article “The Deadliest Virus’, by Michael Specter, the author explains that a Scientist who researched the virus, H5N1, had manipulated and enhanced the virus, making it deadly.

The scientist, whose name is Ron Fouchier, had created fear amongst others because of his bird flu. Specter stated, “Fouchier’s bird flu posed a threat to hundreds of millions of people.” (Specter). They further go into the likelihood of the virus escaping the laboratory, explaining that they are worried about the virus being released to someone from the public. This worry stems from accidents that have occurred during research, most leading to researchers’ deaths. One of these examples was when many laboratory technicians in Hong Kong became infected with a virus called SARS. Researchers fear what can be done to viruses and what they can create, but some do this to further investigate how a virus works.

Overall, the best approach to keeping a balance between the need for scientific research and the safety of the civilian population when it comes to studying viruses and deadly pathogens is to restrict access to viruses to the public. Ensuring that knowledge of the genetic code of the virus is kept away from the public would keep a balance because knowing how a virus is made can be detrimental when someone who is dangerous has access to it. Furthermore, keeping the virus research confidential can also be another approach to keeping a balance. The symptoms and cures of the virus should be accessible to the public, but no other confidential information should. In addition, having more security when researching viruses would keep the public safer.

In conclusion, although there have been several problems that come with researching viruses and studies of them have developed. The accidents that occurred proved to be a lesson that more security when it comes to virus research is needed. Furthermore, as a society and the world come to understand viruses, long-term consequences will occur. Some of these consequences can be that since people are beginning to understand viruses, they may be able to prevent themselves from being infected by one. In the future, society can possibly create a cure for deadly pathogens that are uncurable now. In addition, knowledge of viruses can lead to someone recognizing symptoms and getting treated before the virus gets worse. We should be hopeful for the future because as we gain a better understanding of these viruses and deadly pathogens, it can lead to new discoveries and possible cures.

Work cites

  1. Author: N/A Smallpox: Variolation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, July 30, 2013, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/smallpox/sp_variolation.html
  2. Author:N/A, Salk announces polio vaccine, History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2018, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/salk-announces-polio-vaccine
  3. Donald G. McNeil Jr., A Federal Ban on Making Lethal Viruses Is Lifted,nytimes.com, December 19, 2017,https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/health/lethal-viruses-nih.amp.html
  4. Medial Apocalypse The Black Death, Youtube.com, BBC, April 9, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffaoF0xkUTo
    Zimmerman Barry E. and David J. Killer Germs: Microbes and Diseases That Threaten Humanity Chicago: Contemporary Books, [2003], (244 pages)
  5. Virus Evolution documentary, Youtube.com, National Geographic, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmH5vUpufyA
  6. Michael Specter, The Deadliest Virus, The New Yorker, The New Yorker, June 19, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/03/12/the-deadliest-virus
  7. Steve Nadis, A Drop of Blood, a History of Viruses, Dsicover Magazine, http://discovermagazine.com/bonus/dropofblood
  8. Richard Stockton, 6 Horrifying Human’ Experiments’ That WWII Japan Got Away With, All That’s Interesting, November 5, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/unit-731.
  9. Zika virus, World Health Organization, July 20, 2018, http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/zika-virus
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Poliomyelitis - One of the Deadliest Virus. (2023, Mar 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/poliomyelitis-one-of-the-deadliest-virus/