Medical pioneer Albert Sabin, who developed the oral vaccine that helped end the polio epidemic in the United States, died Wednesday at age 86.

He died at Georgetown University Medical Center of congestive heart failure, said his daughter Amy Horne from her father's home in the nation's capital.Sabin was been admitted to the hospital on Feb. 22 after suffering heart failure, said spokeswoman Jody Klein.

"He enriched my life and I think he enriched the lives of many people," said Heloisa Sabin, his wife of 20 years. She said her husband had "many health problems."

The oral vaccine that Sabin developed, along with an injectable type found earlier by Dr. Jonas Salk, helped eliminate from this country one of the most frightening of diseases.

Sabin tested his vaccine on him

self and prison volunteers before it gained wide acceptance. Ironically, Sabin himself succumbed years later to a different form of paralysis from which he fully recovered in seven months.

Polio, also known as infantile paralysis, swept the United States as a summer epidemic for many years. It affected mainly children, but sometimes adults were its victims. One of them was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was crippled in midlife by the disease.

In 1952, there were 21,269 cases reported in the United States; 10 years later, after the introduction of the Salk and the Sabin vaccines, only 893 cases were reported.

The Salk vaccine, found in the early 1950s, used a killed virus and required three injections over an eight-month period. The Sabin vaccine used weakened forms of live virus and was simpler to administer; it was given by mouth. The vaccines made polio a fear of the past except in less developed nations where vaccination is less than universal.

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In the course of a long career, Sabin published more than 300 scientific papers and was given more than 78 awards and honors. He developed vaccines against other virus diseases, including encephalitis and dengue and investigated possible links between viruses and some forms of cancers.

In his late 70s, he was still attacking childhood diseases, researching an aerosol vaccine against measles.

"The spray vaccine was supposed to be my swan song, then I was going to return to my home here in Washington with my wife and enjoy life," he said in an interview. "A million and a half children still die each year of measles."

The interview, in November 1983, took place in a hospital. Ironically, Sabin had fallen victim to a mystifying paralyzing ailment, from which he later recovered.

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