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This is Milton Cross bringing you another chapter in the story of Empire County, brought to you by the New York State Department of Health and produced by the State Radio Bureau. Today's story, "Facts Over Fear." Dr. Walter Bell, health commissioner of Empire County, looked out the window of his office and saw that the Rambla on the house across the street was in bloom. Thumma whether polio, whether or no vacation inside for Health Commissioner Walter Bell. You wanted to see me, Dr. Bell? Oh, yes. Come in. Lovely weather. Oh, yeah. Polio with it. Oh, talking about polio, I understand that the county hospital has decided to open a diagnostic ward for suspected poliomyelitis cases. That's right. You know, we had a conference on polio up at Albany last week, and that was one of the things suggested by the State Department of Health. And I thought it was such a good idea. And I passed it on to Dr. Simons at the hospital.
He took it up. You seem very concerned about polio this year. And yet isn't it a little too early to find out just how bad it will be? I'm afraid it's in the cards because you never can be too sure, but you can be on your guard. Now, you don't wait until the enemy is in sight before you build your trenches. That's a good strategy, Mr. Medical, as well as military. By late June, the first cases began to be reported in the middle of July, a sharp rise, and by August the epidemic was severe. Dr. Bell. Oh, somebody's been writing you poison pen notes. I'm so mad. I could I could when I could, but I won't. I'm glad of that. Have you seen the letter to the editor in this afternoon's Empire City News? Oh, no, I haven't. Just listen to this. It's from Tom Bradley, the head of the West and Citizens
Association. Our very capable health commissioner has evidently decided to relax in the summer heat. We would have no serious objection to the seasonal hibernation if it were not for the fact that the children of this community are falling like flies before that great scourge of childhood infantile paralysis. But now it must be obvious, even to our health commissioner, that the polio epidemic in this county has reached the stage of genuine emergency. But is the bell tolling? Not so far as we can see. Maybe we suggest to the good doctor that mouthing precious little optimism is not the way to fight polio. We want action. We must have action when we begin to form. I have been expecting you talked about I thought that the newspaper would bring you over.
May I ask Mr. Bradley just what you hope to gain by writing that letter? I think that's obvious. I want to see. And just what do you mean by action? I mean, more than merely sitting around waiting for polio to his every child in the community. Well, let's talk about that point first. Even in the most severe epidemic, not more than three children and a thousand will come down with a disease that adds up to a lot of kids. Yes. Yes, it does. But there's something else to remember of the three and a thousand who are here to recover completely. Are you trying to say that the disease isn't serious? Not at all. It is serious. If only one child in 10000 or crippled, it would be serious. Oh, no. My point is this. The way to fight polio is not by fear, by facts act or facts. Isn't it a fact that you have done almost nothing concrete? Why haven't you closed the movie houses to the kids? Why haven't you closed the school playgrounds? I haven't suggested that be done because we have no reliable evidence that action of that kind will cut down the incidence of the disease. Now, it's been tried time and time again in other communities, and it's done no good.
Well, something's got to be done. Something is being done a great deal, but it's being done without scare headlines and the blowing of trumpets. Are we building the diagnostic ward in the county hospital? Our visiting nurse staff is on overtime duty and they're trying to contact every parent in the county and give them the facts about polio. What facts? You keep talking about facts? Well, you know, some of the facts that one polio is caused by a germ called a virus back to many youngsters, probably get polio, but in so milder form that it actually seems to be nothing more than a little cold. Three Once these youngsters get a mild attack, they probably build up some degree of immunity to the disease and are not likely to get it again. In fact, for the polio virus is so widespread that it is practically impossible for a child to avoid contact with it because so many persons who carry the disease cannot be identified and isolated. In fact, by the best way to protect the child against polio is to educate
the parents of the child, tell them the few simple things we know are helpful in lessening the danger from the disease. What things? Well, the things our nurses are telling the parents now. Here are a few samples. Family. You might find them interesting in the presence of a polio epidemic in a community. Children should have bed rest even for what may seem to be a minor ailment. But why? Sounds like a nonsense to me. The reason is simple enough, Mr. Bradley. There's evidence that suggests that too much activity may aggravate a non paralytic attack of polio to the point where it brings on actual paralysis and crippling. Now, here's another point. At a time like this, tonsils should not be removed because children who have had a recent tonsillectomy somehow seem to be more liable to contract a severe form of the disease. Well, what's a parent supposed to do? A parent supposed to call a doctor at the very first sign of illness that he sees to it that his child doesn't go for too much exercise or do anything that might produce chilling? Well, if that's so, why don't you close the playgrounds?
Have you been to one of the school playgrounds lately, Mr. Ban? No. Well, if you had been, you'd know that all competitive sports that require great physical effort have been eliminated. The supervisors have been keeping the youngsters occupied with things like, oh, like arts and crafts, nature study and games that can be played without a great deal of running around. And you think this is enough? You think this will stop the epidemic? Oh, no. No, I don't. I think the precautions may they hold a number of cases down a bit. That's all we can hope to do. Well, that may be enough for you, but it's not enough for me. I don't know what I've done. I've shipped my kids away, got them out of town. They're up with my mother on her farm and they're going to stay there until this thing is over. Just where is this farm near Windsor Mill? Well, we've had four or five cases come from up there. I'm not worried. My kids are being kept under wraps. They're not even going up to a movie and they're going to stay put until that blizzard
that they have to. That's what I call taking action. Oh, it was the hottest August in years. Empire County sweltered. And as the cases of polio slowly increased, people grew restless and they began to take up Bradlees clamor for action. Gentlemen, ladies, if you please, may I say, first of all, that I'm glad to see so many of you present here today. When Mr. Bradley called to tell me that your committee wanted me to talk with you, I didn't know that so many would be present. I'm sorry we don't have enough chairs. Oh, never mind that this committee, it represents all the parents of the county. And we're here to find out just what. You're going to do about this. You don't have to do anything at all. Well, I think you know fairly well just what our program is, Mr. Bradley. Now, we've already instituted every precaution. We know our doctors, nurses, all the health and medical facilities in the county
have been met to meet the emergency. What more can we do? To can make the stay at home. You can close them over the store, clamp down a curfew. Oh, I'm sorry. Hello. Yes. Yes, he's here. It's for you, Mr. Bradley. Oh, OK. Oh, oh, hello, mother, I see. All right, well, sounds like maybe a cold or something. I wouldn't worry. Let him stay out in the sun. Sure. No, I'm going. Mr. Bradley. Wait a minute, Mother. What do you say, doc, about what's wrong with yourself or just the cold or something? Have you called the doctor? Why not? What would you ask your mother? Just what's wrong with the boy? Mother, what's Bill complaining of? I see why it's nothing, Montvale, he's got a little fever,
Schnabel's a little headache. Call the doctor, please, Miss Bradley. Uh, well, listen, maybe you'd better call the doctor. Yeah. Let me know what he says. Oh, nothing to worry about, but. Well, what's the difference? Call the doctor. Oh, there it comes. Thank the Lord make good time. I can't tell you how grateful I am calling in the middle of the night the way I did. And after all this happened. Oh, that's OK. Lucky that one of our especially put ambulances was available. Can I see him, please? Here's Dr. Lewis. Oh, Dr. Miller, this is Mr. Bradley, the boy's father.
I need you here. Oh, how is he? Will he be all right? I don't know yet. No one can tell. But we'll see that he gets the very best of care. Can I talk to the boy? No, not just yet, Mr. Bradley. He's too excited from the trip. Let's get him comfortable first. I'll go in with him now. Bailey, I don't know what to say. I, I did what I thought was best sent the kid away. And now. Well, there are some things we can't run away from completely. And this is one of us. True that many things about polio are. I know. Well, there are many things we do know and we're learning more every day. Bill is going to get the best care, the very best of modern medical science can here. I've been a fool. No, I'm just afraid in blaming. Can you blame any parent for being afraid of infantile paralysis? Oh, no, of course not. But we mustn't let fear blindness defects are running away is not the answer to the problem. The answer is standing up and battling this thing in the open. Using the weapon that science has given us.
Story of Empire County
Facts Over Fear
Producing Organization
New York (State). Department of Health
Columbia Records, Inc.
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WNYC (New York, New York)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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On this episode of A Story of Empire County, Health Commissioner, Dr. Walter Bell responds to accusations made in a newspaper article by reporter Tom Bradley that Empire County is not doing enough to keep children safe from poliomyelitis. Dr. Bell visits Bradley at his office to admonish him for spreading fear instead of facts. Bell provides some facts about the virus, what is being done to control an outbreak and what to do if your child is showing symptoms. Bradley is unconvinced until his own son falls victim to the disease. [A Story of Empire County aired between 1950 and 1953]
1s. 16in. Reverse side: The Case of the Careless Cook, see 150770.
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Poliomyelitis.; Health.; Public health.; Viruses.; Radio plays.; Diseases.
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Announcer: Cross, Milton, 1897-1975
Producing Organization: New York (State). Department of Health
Producing Organization: Columbia Records, Inc.
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Identifier: 150653.1 (WNYC Media Archive Label)
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Duration: 00:00:00
Identifier: 150653.2 (WNYC Media Archive Label)
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Duration: 00:00:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Chicago: “Muni; Story of Empire County; Facts Over Fear,” WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “Muni; Story of Empire County; Facts Over Fear.” WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Muni; Story of Empire County; Facts Over Fear. Boston, MA: WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from