I FOUND Science and Health on a shelf in a room I was renting in Geneva, Switzerland. I had come to that city to continue studies in the field of international relations and to work part time as a secretary. Within a year of beginning to read the book, doors opened for me to start working as a translator for international organizations, first on a free-lance basis.

Several years later, I found myself near the end of a contract, in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. One day, it was reported that an epidemic of cholera had started in the countryside. For a large city that had very limited running water and sewer facilities at that time, the threat that the epidemic would spread was frightening.

Soon we heard that access to the city from the countryside was no longer allowed. After a few days, all the inhabitants, including the staffs of international organizations, received orders to be vaccinated. But at the same time, we were told that the shots we received (two, with a week in between) did not guarantee full immunity, but would attenuate the symptoms of the disease for those affected. Vaccination of the population took place in the soccer stadium, where one could see long lines of people waiting patiently. Later, it was reported that 500,000 out of the 600,000 inhabitants got vaccinated, the vaccines having been donated by the international community.

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November 14, 2005

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