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Höstens spöke: de svenska polioepidemiernas historia
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Autumn Ghost : the history of polioepidemics in Sweden (English)
Abstract [en]

Polio epidemics appeared in Sweden in 1881 and at the turn of the 20th century the disease became an annual feature in the epidemiological pattern. Due to vaccination starting in 1957 epidemics ceased to exist in Sweden around 1965. This thesis deals with the history polio epidemics in Sweden, 1880-1965 and studies the demographical influence of polio, how the medical authorities investigated and tried to combat it, and the care of those who contracted the disease.

A study of polio mortality and incidence in Sweden at the national level during 1905-1962 reveals that the disease caused 6,000 deaths out of the 51,000 cases reported. At the beginning of the 20th century polio primarily attacked children up to 10 years of age. At the end of the period victims were represented in all age groups, but mainly in the ages 15-39. Moreover, a regional incidence study shows considerable regional differences.

Sweden and the USA developed different ways of investigating and explaining the causes of polio thinking that led to diverse preventive measures. Moreover, in the 1950’s Sweden developed its own vaccine, different in choice of methods and materials from the widely used Salk-vaccine.

When polio was classified as an epidemic in 1905, those infected by polio were usually taken to an isolation hospital. These hospitals were owned and financed by the state. The aftercare of polio victims was organized by philanthropist organizations.

Polio was associated with dirt and unhygienic circumstances until the 1950’s when the theory of polio epidemics as a backlash of good hygiene and sanitary standards was established. The theory is built upon the correlation between neonatal mortality and polio incidence. However, correlation analysis at the regional level reveals no significant relationship between these variables. In Sweden, the hygienic movement had been very influential, and this study suggests that the theory quickly was accepted, because it explained why Sweden could be hit by epidemics and still be considered a welfare state with good hygienic and sanitary standards.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Carlsson , 2004. , 312 p.
Report from the Demographic Data Base, ISSN 0349-5132 ; 23
Keyword [en]
History of medicine, polio, history of medicine, history of diseases, demography, medical science, preventive measures, vaccination, health care, disability, therapeutics, Sweden, 20th century
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-199ISBN: 91-7203-583-8OAI: diva2:142617
Public defence
2004-03-12, Hörsal B, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2004-02-24 Created: 2004-02-24 Last updated: 2013-11-11Bibliographically approved

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