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As It Was: Polio Catches Jackson County Off Guard in 1927

Southern Oregon schools opened in early September 1927, despite new cases of infantile paralysis, or polio, being reported across the country. By late September, Oregon counted 72 cases in the state, a quarter of them in Jackson County.

Schools closed within days when it became obvious the polio virus mainly infected children. Attempting to keep the virus from spreading, children were ordered not to leave their own yards, and churches, movie theaters, and other crowd-gathering places closed their doors.

Little was known about the disease, although it was suspected of being spread by contact with mucous secretions, saliva, and asymptomatic carriers. No sure cure or effective treatment yet existed.

By mid-October, Medford had no new cases and lifted the quarantine on children, only to resume the lockdown within days, as well as canceling all athletic events.

Nearby Douglas County set up roadblocks at its borders to prohibit the entry of children. By early November, children were allowed but quarantined for 14 days.

In early December, all quarantines were lifted even though new polio cases continued to be reported.

Sources: "Health Bulletin." The News Review, 29 Sept. 1927 [Roseburg, Ore.], p. 2; "Children's Embargo Declared." Mail Tribune, 29 Sept. 1927, p. 1 [Medford, Ore.]; Top of Form
"Ban May Be Lifted Monday." Ibid, 13 Oct. 1927, p1; Other references in the Mail Tribune for 7 Oct, 16 Nov, and 9 Dec 1927.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.