EXHIBITS: Putting Polio in the Past

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Science  12 Jul 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5579, pp. 163
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5579.163c

Young polio victims gather outside a New Delhi rehabilitation clinic in this photo by Sebastião Salgado. The well-known photographer's poignant images anchor End of Polio, an online exhibit from the World Health Organization and other sponsors. The site describes the worldwide vaccination campaign that has nearly extinguished poliovirus, which has killed and paralyzed millions.

When the effort began in 1988, there were more than 350,000 cases of polio a year, compared with only 500 in 2001. Pursuing the virus to its lairs required impressive logistics. In 1999, for example, the program delivered 2 billion doses of a vaccine that has to remain chilled to remote areas that lack electricity and are often wracked by civil war. In the chaotic southern Sudan, the vaccine stayed frosty thanks in part to a “cold chain” of 230 solar-powered refrigerators spread across the nearly roadless region. Salgado's photos chronicle such heroic efforts. The site also describes the challenges of stamping out polio in its last strongholds in 10 Asian and African countries. Public health leaders hope to certify these places as disease-free by 2005 if enough money can be raised: The site invites visitors to donate.


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