Definition Essay Model

Political Paralysis

How many children will we need to paralyze to eradicate polio forever? Increasingly, as we approach the ultimate goal of eliminating a crippling disease once and for all from the planet, we must confront this grim calculation. Until the turn of this new century, the naturally-occurring—or wild—polio virus was the primary way for the disease to reach its human hosts, causing illness, debilitation, partial or total paralysis, even death, usually of children, almost always in remote villages ill-served by health agencies. But since the certified eradication of Type 2 polio, and the near elimination of Types 1 and 3, the primary way polio infects its hosts is, I hesitate to say it, through our own inoculation campaigns.

The twentieth-century eradication of smallpox must have emboldened us to imagine that ridding the world of polio would be a matter of course. After all, according to Donald Henderson’s “The Eradication of Smallpox—An Overview,” smallpox had killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone, “more than twice the death toll of all the military wars of that century.” Compared to that massive, almost always deadly scourge, polio, which paralyzed children but killed few and was almost never contracted by adults, must have seemed like an easy target for elimination.

But polio turned out to be a different case altogether: less deadly but sneakier, more resistant to both serums and human effort.

First of all, smallpox is easy to spot. As Henderson again notes, this time in “Countering the Posteradication Threat of Smallpox and Polio,” smallpox is readily visible. Sufferers are covered over most of their body with distinctive purulent poxes. Unlike polio, which can hide in the body for years while its bearers infect others, smallpox advertises its presence and makes intervention much more likely. Imagine trying to rid the world of a disease that has more than 200 asymptomatic carriers for every paralyzed patient.

Second, polio vaccines need to be administered several times, on a schedule, to be effective. Whereas for smallpox, again according to Henderson, a single dose of vaccine immunizes nearly 100% effectively, polio requires at least three doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). And fewer than six doses might not achieve a 90% protection against the predominant strains: types I and III. In stable communities with the enthusiastic support of the local population and health agencies, inoculating every child under five with six doses of anything on a scheduled basis would be seemingly indomitable. But, add to that the social and environmental instability of the areas where polio is endemic (Afghanistan, Pakistan, North and West India, and Nigeria), where flood, famine, and warfare shred the social fabric, and the job seems beyond human capability.

Finally, the vaccines themselves can infect patients with the virus. This is the most insidious and infuriating frustration of the fight against polio. What at the start of the campaign was an almost negligible nuisance factor (if lifelong paralysis can be discounted) of 1 case per 3 million doses of vaccine, has become—tragically and ironically—a much more significant drawback of the seemingly endless effort to finally eradicate polio.

Aylward and Tangermann relate the confident enthusiasm of the polio eradication campaign of the early 1980s, fueled by a strong start and rapid success.

By the year 2000, the incidence of polio globally had decreased by 99%. . . . By 2002 . . . the Americas, Western Pacific and European Regions had been certified polio-free. By 2005, . . .  wild poliovirus (WPV) had been interrupted in all but 4 ‘endemic’ countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where eradication efforts effectively stalled.

Momentum is everything in eradication campaigns. The effort is global and requires the cooperation of entire continents. Adversaries in everything else need to put aside their differences—sometimes even calling cease-fires on battlefields—to cooperate in delivering preventive measures to diverse populations regardless of their race or nationality. What had occurred so naturally in the eradication smallpox needed to occur again if polio was to be eliminated. Henderson described it this way:

The scope of the smallpox program was unprecedented. It required the cooperation of all countries throughout the world and the active participation of more than 50. It was a universal effort unlike any that had ever been undertaken. Most countries eventually proved to be readily responsive but strong persuasion was necessary for some. National antipathies were generally set aside.

In both efforts, the vast majority of the population in endemic countries were inoculated in the early years. And in both cases complications of population movement, natural disasters, maddening bureaucracy, and dislocations of regional conflicts and civil wars frustrated the mass inoculations. But the polio campaign has not yet overcome the elemental differences of the two diseases that make the ultimate elimination of polio so much less likely.

Like the smallpox campaign, the effort to eradicate polio scored impressive early successes. According to Aylward and Tangermann, “By the year 2000, the incidence of polio globally had decreased by 99% compared with the estimated number of cases in 1988 . . . and the last case of polio due to wild poliovirus type 2 transmission anywhere in the world was recorded in Uttar Pradesh, India in 1999.” And then the effort stalled.

Polio is not smallpox: obvious, defenseless, stable. It’s nefarious, invisible until it strikes, and mutable. The 1% of cases that persisted after 2005 began to mutate. The world had failed to wipe out the last of the last viruses. Some children had only mucosal immunity while the virus thrived in their intestines. The carriers looked healthy but passed the virus to others undetected, especially in the toughest places, the remote villages and refugee camps where sanitation was crude at best and healthcare nonexistent.

And while the agencies assigned to eradication tried to counter the mutations with customized variations of the Oral Polio Vaccine to meet local conditions, mounting resistance to an intrusive, expensive, and seemingly endless global eradication effort weakened the support needed to force the effort past the last 1%. According to Taylor, Cutts, and Taylor, in the American Journal of Public Health, “Negative effects were greatest in poor countries with many other diseases of public health importance.” It’s not hard to imagine the reluctance of villagers in India, for example, whose children routinely die of diarrhea, objecting to the massive effort to eliminate polio, which many have never seen, and which does not kill.

There was blessed, magnificent, altogether positive enthusiasm at the UN, at the WHO, at Rotary International, in the 1980s, that the world could once again achieve with polio the triumph of man over disease that had been accomplished against smallpox. But similar efforts achieve similar results only when conditions are similar, and smallpox and polio are too different for the same formulas to work.

References

Aylward, B., & Tangermann, R. (2012, April 06). The global polio eradication initiative: Lessons learned and prospects for success. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X11015994?via%3Dihub

Henderson, D. A. (2002, January 01). Countering the Posteradication Threat of Smallpox and Polio | Clinical Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/34/1/79/312029

 

31 Responses to Definition Essay Model

  1. nyaj32 says:

    The essay describes what would need to be done to eradicate polio, not define what polio means.

    • davidbdale says:

      nyaj, I agree the essay doesn’t define polio. To do so would waste 1000 words.

      The essay examines whether polio belongs to the Category: “eradicable diseases.”
      It details an Analogy Claim that proposes that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

  2. g903254 says:

    This essay describes the measures needed to be taken to eradicate polio, but also what has stalled the eradication of polio. This essay does not define polio in any way just how hard it is to eradicate it.

    • davidbdale says:

      That’s right, G. The essay doesn’t define polio. To do so would waste 1000 words. Instead, it tries out a categorical claim.

      The essay examines whether polio belongs to the Category: “eradicable diseases.”
      It details an Analogy Claim that proposes that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

  3. nugget1114 says:

    This essay describes how Polio is different to Smallpox and why eradicating it is so difficult.

    • davidbdale says:

      You’re right, nugget. The essay demonstrates differences between polio and smallpox.

      Specifically, the essay examines whether polio belongs to the Category: “eradicable diseases.” It details an Analogy Claim that proposes that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

  4. jets1313 says:

    the essay describes what actions are needed to ensure that polio is completely eradicated

    • davidbdale says:

      Yes, it does, jets. But how is that a Definition or Categorical essay? Rephrase your observation and you’ll see that “the essay examines whether or not polio belongs to the category of Eradicable Diseases.”

      It details an Analogy Claim that proposes that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

  5. wazoo1234 says:

    This is a categorical because it talks about how getting vaccinated and how it is so much harder to completely eradicate polio than smallpox because it is a global effort.

    • davidbdale says:

      I agree this is a Categorical argument, Wazoo. I disagree that the difference that spoils the Analogy between polio and smallpox is the global reach of the disease: they had that in common. But certainly other aspects of polio make it an imperfect match for smallpox, so the author concludes that we can’t include polio in the category of “eradicable diseases.”

  6. mysterylimbo says:

    This essay is described as a categorical essay because it explains the process of eliminating disease and show how we can get rid of polio comparatively to the eradication of smallpox.

    • davidbdale says:

      I’m inclined to agree with you, mysterylimbo, but I’m not sure I understand your comment.

      The essay details an Analogy Claim (you call it a comparison claim comparing polio to smallpox, which is just another way to say the same thing) that proposes that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

  7. nina525 says:

    The essay describes the differences between the eradication of polio and the eradication of smallpox. The essay also describes what needs to be done in order to eradicate the disease.

    • davidbdale says:

      What you say is true, Nina, but it doesn’t explain why or whether the essay is a good example of a Definition/Categorical argument.

      It doesn’t define Polio, but it does Compare polio to smallpox. By analogy, it examines the proposal that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated? According to the author, does polio belong to the category “eradicable diseases”?

  8. pomegranate4800 says:

    The essay describes how polio differs from smallpox, and how meticulous it is to eradicate it. The essay doesn’t do much of describing what polio is though.

    • davidbdale says:

      Should it, Pomegranate? Does it have to? Can a legitimate Definition/Categorical essay, without saying much about what a disease IS, or how it comes to BE, or WHEN and WHERE it originated, nonetheless qualify as Categorical if it wrestles with the question of whether the disease (polio) belongs to the same category as an “eradicable disease” (smallpox)?

      The essay details an Analogy Claim that proposes that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

  9. rowanstudent2 says:

    The essay compares the differences of polio to smallpox and how the eradication of polio will not work the same as the eradication of smallpox.

    • davidbdale says:

      All true, Rowanstudent. How does that make this a Definition/Categorical essay?

      Smallpox was eradicated. Therefore, it belongs to the category: eradicable diseases. Does polio belong to the same category? We don’t know yet. If some day it’s eradicated, we’ll know for sure. Until then, we can argue about whether it does or doesn’t. That’s what this essay does: wrestle (by analogy with smallpox) with the question of category.

      What does the author conclude? Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

  10. hazelnutlatte123 says:

    This essay describes how Polio can be eradicated, and the level of difficulty it is when eradicating the disease. It also describes how polio is different from small pox, therefor explaining really what polio means.

    • davidbdale says:

      I agree with every word you say, Latte, but you haven’t answered the question, “How is this a Definition/Categorical argument?”

      Specifically, the essay examines whether polio belongs to the Category: “eradicable diseases.” It details an Analogy Claim that proposes that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

  11. yourfavoriteanon says:

    This essay is categorical by placing smallpox and polio in separate categories in diseases but explain the difficulties surrounding the eradication.

    • davidbdale says:

      Dude!

      Yes, the essay is Categorical. And yes, it locates smallpox and polio in different categories because the similarities between smallpox and polio DO NOT OUTWEIGH the essential differences.

      What category does smallpox belong to: (Eradicable or Ineradicable Diseases)?
      What category does polio belong to: (Eradicable or Ineradicable Diseases)?

  12. daphneblake25 says:

    In regards to the writing sample above, the meaning of a definition essay is the descriptive analysis and informative recap of a specific aspect of your hypothesis and focal point that the audience needs to know to understand the point your making.

    • davidbdale says:

      That’s lovely language, Daphne, and impressively academic, but, you know, between you and me, what are you talking about? 🙂

      —What point does my audience need to understand about polio?
      —Is polio sufficiently similar to smallpox to be included (along with smallpox) in the category: eradicable diseases?
      —Or are there significant differences between the two so that smallpox belongs to the “eradicable diseases” category while polio, sadly, is denied membership?

      Again, impressive answer, but nonresponsive. If you can write like that, I expect more from you. (To be precise, I expect clearer thinking and more specific claims.)

  13. July0222 says:

    This essay isn’t all about what polio is, instead it’s about how to get rid of it, and why it’s so hard to get rid of.

  14. biggarz7 says:

    This essay puts polio in its own category of diseases comparing it to smallpox however it explains the severity of the disease classifying it as more challenging to eradicate.

    • davidbdale says:

      That’s almost clear, Biggarz. And if it crossed that 90% threshold, I’d praise it without reservation. But it falls short, and that 10% makes all the difference.

      What category does polio belong to?
      What category does smallpox belong to?

      Smallpox was eradicated, therefore “eradicable.”
      Polio is still with us, so, for the time being, “ineradicable.”

      Someday polio may be classifiable as eradicable, but for now, despite their many similarities, the 10% difference between them makes them seem like complete opposites: one eradicable, the other ineradicable.

  15. chavanillo says:

    This essay is considered a definition essay because the paper is talking about the difference between polio an smallpox. It is focus on how to eradicate polio and how has it worked. is not really defining what polio really means is just giving and how polio is transmitted and how can it be eradicated.

    • davidbdale says:

      Almost, Chavanillo.
      The essay is a Definition/Categorical essay because it argues that polio does not belong the to same category as smallpox. Smallpox is eradicable. So far, polio has proved to be ineradicable.

  16. nj908 says:

    The essay compares polio to smallpox and the way that we could achieve the eradication of polio and what will happen and what needs to happen to get rid of polio which is more challenging to eradicate

    • davidbdale says:

      That’s all true, NJ, but you haven’t answered the question, “How is this a Definition/Categorical argument?”

      Specifically, the essay examines whether polio belongs to the Category: “eradicable diseases.” It details an Analogy Claim that proposes that polio is sufficiently like smallpox so that, since smallpox was eradicated, polio should also be eradicable. If the Analogy holds, the argument will be made: Polio can be eradicated. If the Analogy fails: we can’t use the example of smallpox eradication to prove polio is eradicable.

      Does the Analogy hold? Does the author believe polio can be eradicated?

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