The Last of the Iron Lungs

In 2013, the Post-Polio Health International (PHI) organizations estimated that there were six to eight iron lung users in the United States. Now, PHI executive director Brian Tiburzi says he doesn’t know anyone alive still using the negative-pressure ventilators. This fall, I met three polio survivors who depend on iron lungs. They are among the last few, possibly the last three.

Read the whole thing, and please vaccinate your kids.

Today in history

October 12, 1928–An iron lung respirator is used for the first time at Children’s Hospital, Boston. This negative pressure ventilator has been replaced by positive pressure ventilation, and the disease most associated with it, polio, has been mostly eradicated by vaccines.

I remember seeing some old iron lung respirators in a basement in the LSU hospital when I was a medical student.

World Polio emergency

The world’s polio problem continues to worsen. The World Health Organization announced Monday that we had hit a “public health emergency of international concern” in polio control, with ongoing spread in three countries—Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon—despite this being a “low-transmission” time. In addition, cases are being diagnosed in other countries, including Nigeria (which had just received a promising report card from experts) and Afghanistan.