Polio has probably caused paralysis and death for most in the human history. The oldest clearly identifiable reference to paralytic poliomyelitis is an Egyptian stele (stone engraving) over 3,000 years old. Cases of poliomyelitis tend to be rare in ancient times, though, as sanitation was generally poor. With improvements in waste disposal and the widespread use of indoor plumbing in the 20th century, epidemics of polio began to occur with regularity in the developed world, primarily in cities during the summer. Because sewage was dumped away from the drinking water supply (a development which helps combat a number of other disease, including cholera), babies were much less likely to be infected with polio and gain protective immunity. As the children got older and began playing with others, and going to school, they were more likely to be exposed to the virus, which was then more likely to cause paralytic poliomyelitis.
Recently, the World Health Organization embarked on a campaign for the worldwide eradication of polio. If this plan is completed successfully, it will conclude the second deliberate destruction of virus by humans, and stand as the final victory in Roosevelt’s other war.