Coronavirus is respiratory; poliovirus is intestinal, with occasional spread to bloodstream and nerves. COVID-19 is new; polio has paralyzed humans for millennia. Having written about polio history for years now, I see differences but also similarities.
Both diseases are highly infectious, caused by viruses that mutate, more susceptible to prevention than cure. Both can be spread by an infected person who shows few or no symptoms. Americans in the 1950s avoided swimming pools and movie theaters for fear of polio. Many today cancel travel and meetings in response to coronavirus.
Fads fill the vacuum when scientists say, “We don’t know yet.” To prevent the spread of polio before it was understood, communities promoted fly-swatting campaigns, sprayed zinc sulfate up children’s noses, and killed thousands of cats and dogs. Alleged protections against coronavirus include hairdryers, ultraviolet lamps, chlorine body sprays, garlic, and sesame oil. Of course none of it helps.
Less colorful but wiser: Take your tips from CDC or WHO, and remember to wash your hands.
Video: A newsreel clip from 1946 boasts of spraying everyone and everything with DDT to protect against polio.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.