Audio Stories


The World of Viruses radio documentary series follows stories about viruses from all around the world.
Join us as we explore what science is now telling us about viruses from: hospitals in Minnesota to clinics in South Africa;
research labs in Nebraska to floating docks in the middle of the ocean; and mosquito haunts in Peru to state fairs in Maryland.


In the United States, getting vaccinated for measles is a childhood rite of passage. Almost everybody gets vaccinated, and as a result, hardly anybody catches measles in this country. Yet, what happens when just a few children do not get vaccinated? Producer Barbara Bogaev travels to Minneapolis, Minnesota where a gap in public trust of vaccines provides a hard lesson in how a viral disease can spread.


The virus that causes FMD (Foot and Mouth Disease) is one of the most feared among farmers. It decimates herds and is so contagious that public health agencies often rely on mass slaughter to contain the virus. Producer Judith Kampfner takes us to Great Britain, where the damage from an FMD outbreak in 2001 is still fresh in farmers’ minds, and to South Korea, which has dealt with five outbreaks in ten years.


Iquitos, Peru, home to more than 400,000 people, is a living laboratory. Researchers there are trying to control the advance of lethal dengue fever by going door to door in neighborhoods throughout the city. They’re mapping the spread of the dengue virus, as well as the mosquitoes that carry it. Producer Dan Charles follows researchers as they try to figure out what people can do to prevent infection.


South Africa is struggling to take care of one of the largest populations of people who are living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It’s a population that expands daily with newly infected people. To slow down the growth, scientists and healthcare workers are researching new ideas in community clinics and on the streets. Producer Gemma Hooley reports from Cape Town.


The influenza virus H1N1 drew the world’s attention to the remarkable ability of viruses to switch hosts – from fowl to swine to humans and back. It also underscored the ability of public health agencies to identify new viruses in animals before they can infect humans. Producer Lakshmi Singh takes us to farms in the Midwest, markets in Hong Kong and state fairs to look into what scientists and industrialized agriculture are doing to track the animal/human interface of viruses.


The Human Papillomavirus – or HPV – is a common virus that touches billions of human beings in one way or another – from a tiny wart on the hand to invasive cancer. HPV can “hide” for years from a person’s immune system – with no apparent ill effects – then awaken and create deadly disease. Producer Jean Snedegar brings us the story of a virus that often doesn’t act as scientists expect it to – a puzzling, paradoxical virus.


HPV is the cause of most cervical cancer in women, and many girls are being vaccinated against the virus. Now researchers for new vaccines are targeting men. Sarah McCammon, of NET Radio in Nebraska, explains how easily men can pass the virus to their sexual partners even if they themselves remain healthy, and why vaccinating young people of both genders could be beneficial in reducing the spread of the virus.

THE BUCKET Algae virus

When you lower a bucket down from a pier into the ocean it may well come up containing nothing but clear water. But scientists now know that every teaspoonful of that water will contain over a 100 million viruses. Producer Judith Kampfner takes us to the coast of southern England and off the docks of San Diego to explore a world of viruses hiding in plain site.