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An end to polio?

Bill Gates wants to eradicate the disease in the next two years. But that’s tricky, and are we even right to try?

By Elizabeth Pisani   March 2011

It’s not often that I admit to being born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Less often still that I admit to being born 46 years ago. I fess up now because of Aidan Cockburn, assistant commissioner of health in Cincinnati in the year I was born. Cockburn wrote a book, The Evolution and Eradication of Infectious Diseases (1963), in which he speculated that a number of infectious diseases could be wiped out entirely: smallpox, malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, polio and yaws.

He was inspired to this view in part because Cincinnati was the site of some of the earliest mass trials of polio…

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