New York State Department of Health Bureau of Acute Communicable Disease Control Poliomyelitis Case Report Cards

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Physicians across the state were required to report each case of designated communicable diseases to the State Department of Health. This series consists of personal and medical data of polio victims. Personal data includes patient's name; address; occupation; age; sex; color/race; and national origin. Medical data includes where and how the disease was contracted; physical relationship to milk production or dairy farming; onset, duration, extent, and location of paralysis; contagion preventative measures; and (after 1960) immunization history. Records are restricted pursuant to state and federal laws.
10 cubic feet (approximately 48,000 cards) (47 microfilm rolls)
Inclusive Dates:
Bulk Dates:
(bulk 1915-1961)
Series Number:


Chronological by year, then numerical by primary health district number, equivalent to an alphabetical arrangement by county and then municipality. Within each district, arrangement is alphabetical by surname.

Administrative History

Physicians across the state were required to report each case of communicable diseases legally designated as public health concerns to their local health officer, who forwarded the report to the state Department of Health. Poliomyelitis, also called infantile paralysis, was added to the list of communicable diseases in 1915.

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of personal and medical data reported over several decades about tens of thousands of polio victims from throughout the state. Data are written on pre-printed cards (approximately 3.5" x 6" in size). The exact information reported varies with the format of the cards, which changed over the years. The series also includes a very small amount of textual information on a few select cases.

Personal data on the case report card consists of the patient's name; address; occupation; age; sex; color/race; national origin; and primary health district number. The forms used between 1915 and 1917 give size and composition of household.

Medical data consists of where and how the individual contracted the disease; any physical relationship to milk production or dairy farming; date of first symptoms; onset of paralysis; extent, location, and duration of paralysis (not included, 1940-1959); and measures taken to prevent contagion. The 1915-1917 forms ask if department assistance is needed. Physicians sometimes request literature, nursing services, or intervention by state sanitary engineers to correct neighborhood sanitation problems. Between 1954 and 1959, there occasionally are notes on the patient's immunization history. From 1960 on, the immunization history appears on nearly every card.

Seven investigative case reports have survived with the 1915 case report cards. Physicians apparently completed these reports voluntarily. The Department solicited them to collect information that might help classify early symptoms and types of polio; determine the environmental conditions in which the disease occurs; and identify its mode of entry into the body. Information includes type of housing; topographical location and sanitary conditions of the patient's home; diet; previous state of health; features of the acute state of the disease; description of paralysis; treatment and laboratory work; symptoms immediately preceding death in fatal cases; and additional comments by the reporting physician.

Many cards marked "case not charged" apparently represent polio cases for which the diagnosis changed or the case was transferred out of state. Such cards are frequently crossed out and filed together with those marked as duplicates at the end of the respective year's report cards. Some others are filed separately in the final box of the series, along with cards for which the date is unknown.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

Restricted by New York Public Health Law sect. 18 and New York Code of Rules and Regulations part 10, sect. 50-4; by New York Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law Art. 6) sect. 87.2(b); by New York Personal Privacy Protection Law (Public Officers Law Art. 6-A) sect. 96; and by the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Acct (HIPAA), 42 U.S. Code sect. 1320d-6, and -7.

Alternate Formats Available

This series has been microfilmed on 47 rolls. Microfilm is not available through inter-library loan.

Related Information

Other finding aids

Container list is available at the repository.

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