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Updated 10:00 AM April 4, 2005




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  Polio trials 50th anniversary April 12
Current world health topics are subject of discussion

As the University prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Thomas Francis, Jr. polio research trials and the announcement of the Salk vaccine's safety and efficacy, the reality is that in some Third World countries the disease is making a comeback.

Young residents of Muskegon, Mich., line up in 1959 to receive the poliomyelitis vaccine at a clinic sponsored by the Urban League of Greater Muskegon. (Photo courtesy Urban League Of Greater Muskegon Records, BL006834, Bentley Historical Library, U-M)

The virus continues to infect people in more than a dozen countries of North Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Although the organization recorded just 1,200 confirmed cases last year, it considers the poliovirus widespread in six countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt. It has reemerged recently in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan in the east of the African continent and the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d'Ivoire in the west.

The WHO and other relief and health care agencies are working to raise funds to get the vaccine to those areas.

During the 50th anniversary celebration to be held April 12 at Rackham Auditorium, a panel of experts will discuss the greatest public health challenges still facing the world. The panel will be moderated by Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, and will include Jon Andrus of the WHO, Richard Goodman of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and U-M faculty members Sunny Roller and Mark Wilson.

After a reception and lunch break, a 3 p.m. panel led by U-M medical historian Howard Markel will be held in the Rackham Amphitheatre. It will include Jeffrey P. Baker, Duke University medical historian; Time magazine science correspondent Jeffrey Kluger; historian and author David M. Oshinsky of the University of Texas at Austin; medical historian Naomi Rogers of Yale University; and historian and author Daniel J. Wilson of Muhlenberg College.

The public is invited to all events. The program will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will feature the awarding of the newly created Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health. The medal honors Francis, who conducted the field studies of the Salk polio vaccine. Francis was director of the U-M Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center and founding chair of epidemiology in the School of Public Health.

The inaugural medal will be presented to Dr. William Foege, who played a key role in pioneering a strategy to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. He will deliver a keynote address. Foege has served as director of the CDC, as executive director of the Carter Center, and as senior adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For a link to a live Web cast of the event or for more information, go to:

Michigan TV 2—Comcast cable channel 22 in the Ann Arbor area—will re-broadcast the program on the following schedule: 7:30 p.m. April 13; 7:30 a.m. April 14; 1:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. April 15; 5 p.m. April 16; 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. April 17; and 11 a.m. April 18.

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