Aaron Huey, Getty Images

Misión: salvar el medio ambiente

CHEVY CHASE, MARYLAND – Imagínese esta situación. Es el año 1966. Usted está de pie en una oficina del gobierno en Washington, D.C., viendo como un funcionario uniformado le dice a un hombre vestido con atuendo formal de negocios: “su misión es eliminar a un enemigo que ha matado a más personas que ambas guerras mundiales combinadas. Contará con un presupuesto paupérrimo, un equipo pequeño y, si fracasa, el ministro negará tener conocimiento sobre sus acciones”.

Suena a una escena de una película de Hollywood. Y, en efecto, refleja las primeras escenas de la serie televisiva Misión: Imposible que se estrenó el año citado.  Sin embargo, lo relatado realmente ocurrió, aunque puede que las palabras usadas no sean las mismas. El funcionario era el asistente del Cirujano General James Watt, el hombre a quien se asignaba la misión era el científico Donald Henderson del Centro de Enfermedades Transmisibles (CDC) y el enemigo era la viruela.

La misión, ciertamente, parecía imposible. En ese momento, la viruela mataba hasta dos millones de personas e infectaba a15 millones más, cada año. Sin embargo, al igual que en la serie, Henderson y su equipo de la Organización Mundial de la Salud desafiaron las expectativas. En poco más de una década, la viruela se convirtió en la primera – y, hasta ahora, la única – enfermedad infecciosa humana que ha sido erradicada totalmente.

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