The Swine Flu and Mount Sinai

Kilbourne Edwin getting flu shot 1976 The current news about the growing swine flu outbreak brings to mind an earlier epidemic in 1976 that saw a Mount Sinai physician playing a lead role.  Edwin D. Kilbourne, MD was Chairman of Mount Sinai's Dept. of Mirobiology at the time, and was known as the first to develop a genetically engineered vaccine (1970).  An infectious disease expert, Kilbourne was sought out by the federal government when it seemed that an epidemic of swine flu was beginning.  Kilbourne and colleagues developed a vaccine for the new strain and millions of people were vaccinated.  Unfortunately, hundreds of new cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome were soon reported, and the question then became: was the vaccine the cause? 

ScienceInsider has just published a little interview with Kilbourne where he talks about the events of 1976 and his current thoughts on what happened. http://blogs.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2009/04/retrospective-w.html  It provides a little window on infectious disease control and public health policy. The photo here shows Kilbourne getting his own vaccination in 1976.  The media attention was such that camera crews turned out to film him in the Annenberg lobby getting his shot.

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