The early part of the 1960s was a particularly harrowing time for a woman to become pregnant. From 1962 to 1965, a virus of global pandemic proportions was wreaking havoc on fetuses, causing miscarriages and birth defects, and although work on a vaccine was underway, it would not become commercially available until 1969.
The virus was rubella, and the terror it caused in the United States has largely faded from public memory. But Louis Cooper and Stanley Plotkin — doctors who were on the front lines of the epidemic and who both worked to develop vaccines for the virus — have not forgotten. In interviews, they recounted the uncertainty, fear and agonizing choices pregnant women faced during those years. The scenario is one to which a spreading outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas is starting to bear eerie resemblance, in a sign that the U.S. may not be so removed as it thinks from the scourge of infectious disease.
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