Polio's Last Stand

On the verge of eradication in Pakistan, polio made an alarming comeback. In 2011, a CIA ploy—using a vaccination campaign to track down Osama bin Laden's hideout—backfired and led to Islamic militants believing that all polio vaccination workers were American spies. These militants in the Pakistani borderlands with Afghanistan began killing dozens of vaccination workers, and the disease once again began to spread.

In 2012, Islamic fighters from the tribal area heeded a call for jihad in Syria. Less than a year later, the virus re-surfaced in eastern Syria in areas under rebel-control. Experts claim that the polio found in Syria was identical to the Pakistani strain.

In a multi-part investigation spanning the Taliban heartland to ISIS-controlled territory in Syria, Jason Motlagh and Tim McGirk explore both the conflict as a vector for polio across the region and the bold campaign to stop this crippling disease in its tracks.

Pakistan: The Road to Bannu

A Pakistani military offensive uprooted 900,000 tribesmen from areas under Taliban-control, giving health workers in Bannu a rare opportunity to vaccinate people beyond their reach.

Polio: The Salk-Sabin Rivalry

In the wake of World War II, there was one affliction America couldn’t shake: polio. When virologists rallied to fight back, a rift developed between two scientists: Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin.