Polio Is Nearly Wiped OutUnless Some Lab Tech Screws Up

In 1979, a photographer named Janet Parker got a disease that wasn't supposed to exist anymore. At first she thought she had the flu, but then she kept getting sicker, got a rash, and went to the hospital, where doctors—in disbelief—diagnosed her with smallpox. Just a year earlier, the World Health Organization had declared that "mankind probably had seen its last case of smallpox," according to The New York Times. That should have been true. But in a Birmingham University lab below Parker's darkroom, a scientist had been working furiously to finish up his viral research, before officials clamped down on the number of facilities studying the nearly dead disease. The scientist wasn't obeying safety protocols, and the virus escaped …