(As reported 2/26/99)
Although they have to be magnified many thousands of times just to be seen, some microbes can be the deadliest of man's enemies, reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin.
"Just the words Cholera, Ebola, Hanta virus, E. Coli, AIDS, can strike terror in most of us," said Ellen Futter, president of the museum. "Still, the underlying message of this exhibition is one of hope."
The American Museum of Natural History is giving us a front row seat in the battle between man and microorganism in a landmark exhibit opening Saturday on infectious disease.
"The exhibition explores the incredibly fascinating, and at times deadly, world of microbes," Futter saidd, "which are found everywhere on Earth, including in each of us."
Disease has become an integral part of popular culture. The terror of it featured in movies like Outbreak, the tragedy of it captured on a giant AIDS quilt.
"We will get to a certain point with some of these microbes, where eradication is possible, but there's always something waiting in the wings," said Rob DeSalle, organizer of the new exhibit at the museum.
DeSalle is referring to diseases like the Hong Kong flu, which scientists fear may one day spread not only from bird to man, but from man to man, or the emergence of drug-resistant diseases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, said, "the ancient scourge of tuberculosis, which we felt we had under control for a time, is now re-emerging with multiple drug resistance."
The new exhibit is called, "Epidemic! The World of Infectious Disease."
At the beginning of the century, one of the museum's most popular exhibits ever was on tuberculosis. Now, 100 years later, disease is back on display.
This time, the emphasis is on how to learn to live with it, since scientists say it's unlikely we will ever live without it.