This letter is in response to your story which was published in your website and broadcasted in your stations regarding Edward Jenner as the most prolific microbiologist that ever lived and have contributed much to the improvement of microbiology and public health. I would like to make a point that several other scientists have contributed much to that of the works of Jenner on eradicating small pox virus by vaccination. He may have started the use of vaccines which led to its eradication years later; however, it should not be mistaken to be the most significant microbiological contribution.
Take an example the work of Joseph Lister on 1867 regarding antiseptics (Prescott et al., 2005). Like any other scientist during his time, works on antisepsis was not an overnight job; he worked carefully and tested his theories over and over again, until such time that he perfected it (Roediger, 1990). By thoughtfully thinking of what may cause pus formation in surgical wounds, he experimented with rags and phenol and used it as wound dressings. Sure enough, his patients did not develop gangrene after being dressed with carbolic acid or phenol treated rags. Later on, he improved on excluding bacteria from his operating suite by incorporation of clean environment as a prerequisite in aseptic surgery (Lister, 1909).
In modern days, Lister’s work on antiseptic surgery had decreased much of the deaths caused by hospital-acquired infections brought about by practicing of good science (Pasteur and Lister, 1996). By applying his notion of the germ theory via his promotion of environmental cleanliness and sanitation, he inculcated the modern medical practitioners with standards of disease prevention that ultimately lead to reduction of major infections like tuberculosis (Osborn, 1986).
Most notably, in his honor, Listerine® was named after him. In recognition of his efforts, the British Medical Journal recently stated that “he saved more lives by the introduction of this system than all the wars of the 19th century together had sacrificed” (Nester et al., 2007). To conclude that Lister was more prolific than Jenner, the Jenner Institute of Preventive Medicine in Britain was changed to its current name, the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine (The Lister Institute).
Another notable scientist is in the persona of Dr. John Snow. John Snow, in 1849 published his works entitled, “On the mode of communication of cholera.” In his research, Snow began to hypothesize that cholera was indeed transmitted by a common source, and sure enough he pin pointed it to a contaminated water pump in Broad Street (Thrusfield, 22007). Though highly criticized and much of his researches were dismissed, he never did falter in seeking out the truth.
Despite of these obstacles, he never faltered to show the good qualities of an epidemiologist: good record keeper, determined, dedicated and highly skilled (Stanwell-Smith, 2002). A good record keeper, he was a very keen observer and he never did forgot to take into accounts this minute details that allowed him to solve the mystery of the cholera epidemic in London. Moreover, determined and dedicated to his work even though criticisms were all around him and yet a highly skilled scientist never did show attitudes that will hinder him from succeeding (Prescott et al., 2005). His works have led people to dub him as “the father of epidemiology.”
Sure enough, epidemiology and public health cannot have gone a million step without the initiative of the medical doctor who was once criticized for hypothesizing something at that time which cannot be proven until later years where, the bacteria responsible for the disease was isolated. It may be another story of another scientist, but without Snow, nothing not even the prevention and determination of the occurrence of diseases can progress (Stanwell-Smith, 2002).
Sure enough, Jenner may have helped in improving disease prevention by first creating the vaccine and subsequent studies leading to its development, it cannot be disclosed that Lister and Snow, did more achievements in the field of microbiology and public health per se. It may be fitting to say that Jenner may be a great microbiologist, it is only proper to also uphold and acknowledge other note taking efforts of these other microbiologists.
In the summer of 1999, the first human case of West Nile Encephalitis in the western hemisphere was documented. By the end 0f 2002, the WNV epidemic have resulted to at least a total 4,156 human cases (with 2,943 meningoencephalitis case and 284 deaths), 16,741 dead birds, 6,604 infected mosquitoes and 14,571 equine cases. This epidemic was the largest recognized arboviral meningoencephalitis epidemic in the Western Hemisphere (CDC, 2003).
Western equine encephalitis is a member of the Genus Flavivirus under the Family Flaviviridae (Tortora et al., 2007). The virions are spherical and around 50 nm in diameter. It is widely distributed throughout the Americas, especially after the onset of the epidemics in 2002. It is maintained in an endemic cycle involving domestic and passerine birds and Culex sp. serving as the vector host (Murphy et al., 1999 ). WNV infection in humans produces either asymptomatic infection or mild febrile disease, sometimes accompanied by rash, which should be differentiated from dengue hemorrhagic fever. The human case-fatality rate in the U.S. has been 7% overall with 10% of patients having neuroinvasive WNV disease (CDC, 2003).
Although unknown how or when WNV was introduced into North America, international travel of infected people, importation of infected birds or mosquitoes or migration of infected birds are all possibilities and cannot be ruled out. Overwintering mosquitoes during the winter of 1999 to 2000 have been the mode wherein the virus has propagated throughout New York. It has then undergone several cycles of overwintering and by the end of 2002 has affected 44 states, including the District of Columbia. It has now been proven that the mosquito carry the virus and have traveled initially from New York to nearby states infecting other animals, most notably humans. (CDC, 2003).
Control and Prevention
Prevention and control of WNV encephalitis was accomplished effectively through a series of comprehensive efforts and programs including integrated pest management. It should be taken into consideration that the priority prevention for this type of disease is destruction of mosquito habitats which serve as the main vector. Likewise, sanitation and water management greatly reduced the total number of cases from that of 2002 to a tolerable one. (CDC, 2003)