Dr. D.A. Henderson, MD, MPH, is a Distinguished Scholar at the UPMC Center for Health Security and a Professor of Public Health and Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He is Dean Emeritus and Professor of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a Founding Director (1998) of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies. From 1966 to 1977 he headed the World Health Organization’s successful campaign to eradicate smallpox (an effort chronicled in his 2009 book Smallpox: Death of a Disease), and in 2002 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He is the recipient of the National Medal of Science, the National Academy of Sciences’ Public Welfare Medal, and the Japan Prize, shared with 2 colleagues. He has received honorary degrees from 17 universities and special awards from 19 countries.
Dr. Henderson has authored more than 200 articles and scientific papers and 31 book chapters and is coauthor of the renowned Smallpox and Its Eradication (Fenner F, Henderson DA, Arita I, Jezek A, and Ladnyi ID. 1988. Geneva: World Health Organization), the authoritative history of the disease and its ultimate demise.
Beginning in February 1957, a new influenza strain virus (known to virologists as H2N2) emerged in China. Throughout April, May, and June, it spread steadily and rapidly across Asian and Middle Eastern countries. There was one question in everyone’s minds: Would the new virus behave like the feared 1918 virus, which had caused tens of millions of deaths? Or would it behave like the ordinary influenza strains with which physicians were familiar? This November 1957 conference, organized by the New York Academy of Medicine and broadcast by WNYC, attempted to provide some answers.
The government advisory board that oversees biosecurity in the U.S. is asking the scientific journals Nature and Science to censor details of recent studies on bird flu due to concerns about biological terrorism. Researchers created mutations of the A(H5N1) virus, making it transferable between mammals through the air. In 60 percent of human cases, this strain of avian flu is fatal. At present, only 350 people worldwide have died because of the flu, only because it can be contracted via direct contact with infected birds.
What have we learned from the swine flu crisis that wasn't? Joan Nichols, associate director of research at the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and D.A. Henderson, public health expert and co-author of "Smallpox- the Death of a Disease: The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer," share their differing opinions on what we did right and what went wrong.