Shoe-leather epidemiology: botulism, polio and the chicken pox that shut down DC

“In West Africa in 1964 I helped run a troubled and costly measles immunization program sponsored by the Agency for International Development in Washington. The agency sent large trucks containing refrigerators to carry the heat sensitive vaccine to remote villages at the edge of the Sahara. But the refrigerators failed in the desert heat; they were not designed to work where the temperature was above 85 degrees. I fired off cables to the agency. Back came advice to park the trucks in the shade. After gazing over the shrub-dotted savannah wondering where I would find any shade, I cabled a request for an emergency air freight shipment of 10,000 elm trees. An ambassador worried that the trees might come. But they did not.”

Posted April 17, 2001

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