David Oshinsky, author of "Polio: An American Story," will participate in the global videoconference.
By Virginia Linn Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In February, India was officially removed from the list of countries with active transmission of endemic polio, leaving only three countries -- Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan -- where transmission of indigenous poliovirus has never been interrupted.
India, with its population of more than a billion, has not recorded a case of wild poliovirus since Jan. 13, 2011 -- nearly 15 months ago.
Such an advance likely will be hailed Thursday when University of Pittsburgh hosts a special interactive global videoconference, free to the public, to mark the 57th anniversary of the date that Jonas Salk and his Pitt research team announced that a vaccine to prevent polio had been determined to be "safe, effective and potent."
"Finishing the Job: Making the World Polio Free" will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Pitt's O'Hara Student Center, 4024 O'Hara St., Oakland.
Among those participating in the videoconference will be David Oshinsky, the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Polio: An American Story"; Hamid Jafari of the World Health Organization; Walt Orenstein, a former deputy director for immunization programs at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and others involved in infectious disease and vaccine efforts.
While slow, progress is being made in ridding the last few countries of poliovirus. In 2005, the 50th anniversary of the Salk announcement, the virus was endemic in six countries, now it's down to three.
Carl Kurlander, co-founder of Steeltown Entertainment and a partner in the polio effort, said students from Pakistan will be among youth participating in the conference. The aim is to get "young people to become digital polio pioneers and raise awareness of how important it is that everyone get involved in ridding the world of this disease."
Steeltown is sponsoring a digital media contest "Take a Shot at Changing the World," offering more than $10,000 in prizes to middle and high school students who make movies about how Pittsburgh has changed the world and how people can make a difference in their communities.