Through all of history, just one human disease has been eradicated — smallpox, in 1980. Today, thanks to the long-term dedication of numerous organizations, donors, corporations, governments, researchers, health-care workers, and volunteers on the ground, two more are on the verge of being wiped out: Guinea worm disease and polio.
The challenges of eradicating diseases are enormous, but it can be done through smart strategies and a huge amount of work.
The fascinating multimedia exhibition Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease, which opened at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in January and runs through December 16, explores the factors that determine whether a disease can be eradicated and the scientific and social innovations that are making it possible.
Developed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York in collaboration with The Carter Center, the exhibition uses stunning photography, video, and artifacts to highlight several global efforts to fight infections. Among these is the more-than-30-year campaign that has Guinea worm disease poised to become the next disease to disappear. The exhibition also highlights ongoing programs to eradicate polio and achieve local elimination of river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria, and the challenge of diseases that cannot be eradicated, including Zika.
“One of our duties, yours and mine, is to inspire our children and grandchildren to take on challenges and risks that at first may seem overwhelming or even
impossible,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has led the fight against Guinea worm disease since 1986. “They need to understand that the only failure is not to try. We can overcome many global challenges when we all work together as a global community. When nations and leaders and scientists and caring people focus on shared dreams, we can build a better world.”
In November, The Carter Center held a celebration in a small village in Nigeria to commemorate the Center's role in distributing more than 500 million doses of medication to fight neglected tropical diseases. The Center's work has led to the elimination of river blindness (onchocerciasis) in four countries in the Americas: Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Countdown to Zero first appeared at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 2015. It opened in London in 2016 and is scheduled to open in the United Arab Emirates, later this year.
“We are delighted that Countdown to Zero will now be on view in Atlanta, where the Carter Center’s tireless work and unflinching vision are testament to the possibility that infectious diseases can be controlled or even eradicated in our time,” said Ellen V. Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History.
The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum is open 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon-4:45 p.m. Sunday. No tours may begin after 4:15 p.m. any day. Museum admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors (60+), military, and students with ID; free for children age 16 and under.