UT Professor’s Work Sparks Stepped-Up Fight Against Polio

Talk about what starts here changing the world — a UT professor’s research could lead to billion-dollar support for wiping a disease off the face of the earth.

David Oshinsky’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Polio: An American Story, has helped inspire Bill Gates to put eliminating polio among his top philanthropic priorities.

Gates read the book and was “very taken with it,” a consultant to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told the Austin American-Statesman.

Oshinsky will appear with Gates on Monday in a discussion, moderated by Diane Sawyer, about the foundation’s plans. (Watch it here at 8:30 a.m. Central Standard Time.)

Only one other disease — smallpox — has ever officially been eradicated from the world. (Although the cattle-killing disease rinderpest is expected to be declared eliminated in May.)

Despite the challenges of eradicating polio worldwide, including getting countries like Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan to cooperate, Oshinsky is optimistic.

“If everyone gets behind us,” he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we wiped out polio in less than five years.”

There has been a 99 percent reduction in polio since 1998, when it was causing paralysis in 1,000 children per day. That year, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was formed.

Gates is said to be even more optimistic than Oshinsky — he says he believes it can be eliminated in all but one place within three years.



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