POLIO (POLIOMYELITIS): a viral disease marked by inflammation of nerve cells of the brain stem and spinal cord


TRINIDAD COCAL VIRUS: a virus discovered in Cocal, Trinidad, spread by mites and mosquitoes which causes illness in pigs, cattle, and horses

Barbara Hull (Date of Birth: 23rd May 1939)

Caribbean Icons in STI Vol 1

Dr. Barbara Hull contributed to public health and disease control for 27 years. In Trinidad and Tobago, she set up crucial disease surveillance systems. Regionally, she researched the spread of HTLV-1 and HIV, and piloted standardised testing. She also led the Global Polio Eradication Programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Barbara Phyllis Naomi Hull was born in Belmont, Trinidad in 1939. She attended Providence Intermediate School, Bishop Anstey High School, and Polytechnic Institute. She attained a BSc (1966) and MSc (1969) from McGill University, Canada. She researched the Trinidad Cocal virus for her master’s thesis while working at the Trinidad Regional Virus Laboratory. To facilitate disease reduction, monitoring systems were developed using health institutions. In the 1970s, she effectively prepared her country for the 1972 polio outbreak and discovered two new strains of the yellow fever virus. She also discovered that a seasonal virus caused gastrointestinal disease in children during research for her PhD at the University of the West Indies (1983).

At the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre, she coordinated regional surveys on polio and other diseases, and was involved in the Pan American Health Organisation’s Polio eradication programme. Globally, she improved the capability of the WHO network of polio laboratories and contributed to measles and yellow fever control. In 1968, she received the Trinidad and Tobago Medal of Merit. She advises:”There is no better way to spend your life than in the pursuit of science.”