How to Kill a Killer Disease
Listen to our interview with William Foege here.
William Foege was one of the scientists who led the global campaign to eradicate smallpox, a deadly disease that plagued humankind for centuries. At the time, he was working for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. His new book about the eradication campaign is called House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox.
Foege is now a senior fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and he is our guest in this Science Forum discussion.
When Foege first started working for the smallpox eradication campaign in the late 1960s, the plan was to vaccinate everyone in affected countries. But while working in Nigeria, he found himself facing a shortage of vaccine supplies. So he enlisted local missionaries to find affected communities and only vaccinate people in the immediate vicinity of patients. The strategy is what public health officials call “surveillance and containment,” and it ultimately succeeded in eradicating the disease globally.
Is eradication a feasible goal for all diseases? When should we decide to eradicate a disease versus just control it?
Bring your thoughts and questions for Foege. He’ll be participating in this discussion until July 12th.
- A review of ‘House on Fire,’ The Wall Street Journal.
- William Foege on eradicating other diseases, NPR’s Humanosphere blog.
- Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
- Eradicating Guinea Worm Disease, PRI’s The World.