Eradicating Polio with Dr. Anil Antony
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The virtual eradication of polio was one of the greatest achievements of the modern scientific era. As another virus-caused pandemic rages around the world, this Conversation surveys the successful effort to eliminate a disease that has plagued humankind since the beginning of recorded history.
Throughout human history, there have been constant battles with disease: tuberculosis, measles, cancer. One of those battles was with polio, the terrible effects of which were first documented in ancient Egypt. The disease is caused by the poliomyelitis virus, which causes inflammation in the cells of the spinal cord that can lead to paralysis. Although 70% of people with the virus are asymptomatic, it ultimately kills 2-5% of children and 15-30% of adults who are exposed. Because of the way it is spread, polio outbreaks were usually regionally limited, but they could be endemic to whole nations, as happened in the U.S. repeatedly.
In 1938, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the most famous victim of polio, launched the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later known as the March of Dimes. The 1940s and 1950s saw a terrible outbreak, with thousands of people connected to iron lung machines in cases where the muscles used for breathing stopped working. Jonas Salk, an American virologist, introduced the polio vaccine in 1955. The U.S. was polio-free by 1994. It persisted in much of the world through the 2010s but has now been eradicated in all but a few countries. This Conversation will survey the science of polio and its vaccine, as well as the history of the health programs that helped fund it and promote its use. We will also discuss similarities and differences between polio and Covid as health crises.
Led by Dr. Anil “Noro” Noronha Antony, an expert with a PhD in cell and developmental biology, this interactive seminar will explore just how polio has almost entirely been eradicated. Designed to inform as well as educate, participants will emerge with a greater understanding of one of the world’s most incredible achievements, thanks to science.
Dr. Anil “Noro” Noronha Antony is an assistant director of the American Association for Cancer Research, the world's oldest and largest private cancer research organization. He holds a PhD in Cell and Developmental biology and a lifelong interest in the history and culture of south India. Born in the Muslim-majority United Arab Emirates to an Anglo-Indian Catholic family and trained by a Hindu tantric in Kerala, he has direct experience of all three major Keralite religious traditions.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.
Very good presentation by Dr. Anil Antony. Learned a lot about polio and other viruses.