Durand family remembers battle with polio

Local News

DURAND, Ill. (WTVO) — Sunday was “World Polio Day.”

For years, the virus ran rampant across the world, taking lives and paralyzing many survivors. Today, there are zero reported polio cases in the U.S. and very few across the globe. Experts said that it is due to vaccines, and that there are some parallels between polio and COVID-19.

One local family recalled what they went through when the disease was at it’s peak, more than six decades ago.

“I’ll never forget when Mom and Dad and the rest of the family would come to visit us, they had to talk through a window,” said Joan Walsh, who’s family was devastated by polio in 1955.

Joan and her family shared their prior struggles with the virus as part of an event hosted by the Pecatonica Rotary Club Tuesday night. The Walsh family was prepping for the start of school in 1955 when one of them was diagnosed with polio.

“This whole ordeal was less than two weeks old, and already they have four children in isolation,” said Bernie Walsh.

The virus eventually spread to ten other members of the family, and even claimed the lives of two.

“That deadly cloud, the polio epidemic, would change the world for the Walsh family,” said Tom Walsh.

Polio is not a threat to public health anymore in many parts of the world, according to Rotary Club member Margaret Larson. She said that the purpose of the presentation was to celebrate the progress that has been made.

“We are this close to eradicating polio. It currently exists, there are only cases in two countries,” Larson said.

According to Larson, it is difficult not to draw parallels between the spread of polio and the ongoing threat of COVID-19. She is hoping that the Rotary Club can one day recognize similar successes in fighting the disease.

“I don’t think it’s any different than what we’re experiencing right now,” Larson said. “With polio, we go back how many years and you can see the effect of what hard work and new science have done with polio, and hopefully that can happen with many other things.”

One of the Walsh siblings wrote a book about the family’s fight against polio. “Triumph on Baker Road” was released five years ago.

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