Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries

Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries

4.2 18
by Molly Caldwell Crosby
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

A fascinating look at a bizarre, forgotten epidemic from the national bestselling author of The American Plague.

In 1918, a world war raged, and a lethal strain of influenza circled the globe. In the midst of all this death, a bizarre disease appeared in Europe. Eventually known as encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness, it spread

Overview

A fascinating look at a bizarre, forgotten epidemic from the national bestselling author of The American Plague.

In 1918, a world war raged, and a lethal strain of influenza circled the globe. In the midst of all this death, a bizarre disease appeared in Europe. Eventually known as encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness, it spread worldwide, leaving millions dead or locked in institutions. Then, in 1927, it disappeared as suddenly as it arrived.

Asleep, set in 1920s and '30s New York, follows a group of neurologists through hospitals and asylums as they try to solve this epidemic and treat its victims-who learned the worst fate was not dying of it, but surviving it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Here’s medical curiosity combining history, mystery, and riveting storytelling. Crosby (The American Plague) relates the vexing appearance during WWI of encephalitis lethargica—sleeping sickness—through the stories of patients, doctors, and public health servants swept up in an epidemic that affected as many as five million people worldwide in a little over a decade. Despite a high mortality rate, writes Crosby, surviving the epidemic was worse than dying from it. Survivors were left insane and locked in a statue-like immobility. As interesting to Crosby as the mystery of sleeping sickness’s sudden appearance and spread, possibly in tandem with the Spanish flu, is the aftermath, which taxed the burgeoning fields of neurology and mental health. The mystery of the epidemic isn’t yet solved, leaving concerns about a future recurrence. The remarkable human connection Crosby brings to this scientific oddity helps enlighten readers about a pandemic forgotten in the shadow of the contemporaneous Spanish flu and till now memorialized only in Oliver Sacks’s Awakening. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
The engaging story of the outbreak of a bizarre disease. In 1917, a young neurologist named Dr. Constantin von Economo was faced with a sudden influx of unusual patients at a clinic in Vienna, Austria. They exhibited a bizarre array of symptoms, including uncontrollable blinking, twitching, salivating or other tics-or even psychotic behavior. Others were locked in a catatonic state. All the patients had one symptom in common-difficulty staying awake. Indeed, some patients fell deeply asleep and never woke up. Autopsies showed that patients had swelling in the section of the brain that controls sleep. Von Economo identified the disease, which became known as encephalitis lethargica-sleeping sickness-but neither he nor anyone else could pinpoint what was causing it. It became a worldwide epidemic during the next few years, affecting millions-but after 1927, the epidemic tapered off, and new cases became rare. Crosby (The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History, 2006) relates the history of encephalitis lethargica by using several case studies. They range from a New York girl who had violent seizures and then fell into a sleep from which she never awoke, to a woman whose disease drove her to grotesque self-harm-including tearing out her own eyes. Some of the catatonic victims of the disease became the subject of Oliver Sacks's book Awakenings (1973) which was later made into a film. Crosby is a fine storyteller, peppering her case studies with facts about the history of neurology and details about 1910s New York. She also provides fully realized portraits of not only her case studies' patients, but also the brilliant doctors who treated them,such as Frederick Tilney, a neurologist who later gained fame for his study of Helen Keller, and Josephine B. Neal, a rare female bacteriologist, neurologist and encephalitis expert in a male-dominated profession. Crosby also provides the latest theories of the causes of this strange disease, the origins of which are still elusive. A capable, readable account of a medical mystery. Agent: Ellen Geiger/Frances Goldin Literary Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101185681
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/02/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
254,531
File size:
540 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Molly Caldwell Crosby holds an MFA in nonfiction and science writing from John Hopkins University and previously worked for National Geographic magazine. Her writing has appeared in Newsweek, Health, and USA Today.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book on a topic that has been neglected. The case histories were compelling, the details were crisp and it was very enjoyable to read. I learned a great deal while I was entertained. Always a plus! Only gripe is that there are photos in the print edition that have not been included in this NOOK edition. I cannot understand why they were not included as they add to the scope of the narrative. I hope to get all the features of a print book when I buy a NOOKbook. This may put me off purchasing.
postlady More than 1 year ago
One of the most interesting books I've ever read! I loved 'The Great Influenza' so it was amazing to find yet another tragic consequence of that horrible time in our history. What I didn't understand was why there were so many typos in my e-book. It was very distracting and frankly, unprofessional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I learned about this book when the author was interviewed on the "Diane Rehm Show." I'd never heard of encephalitis lethargica or "sleeping sickness." However, I found Diane's interview fascinating, and determined to read the book. Crosby conveys the epidemiological history of this disease in layman's terms, using specific case studies to illustrate the wide variety of symptoms and manifestations in its victims. She discusses the various doctors around the world who encountered the disease, and provides a medical context for it as well as a social context. Crosby's writing is fluid, and the reading goes quickly. Yet she doesn't sacrifice detail. Some of the case studies include gruesome descriptions of things that victims of this disease did to themselves. But their stories are powerful, and I encourage readers to persevere.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
The year was 1918, and while the world was caught in the midst of a massive war, it was also facing a quiet, but quite deadly strain of influenza that ripped through every country leaving a massive amount of death in its wake. Oddly, in the crux of all the horror and death, another disease surfaced in Europe that proved to be perplexing and completely stumped physicians. The patients suffered from anomalous sleeping symptoms, facial tics and often savage insanity. This strange illness eventually spread around the world, and left a profusion of permanently debilitated patients in asylums, and caused death in other patients. Physicians scrambled for answers to this unknown sleeping sickness, which was finally named Encephalitis Lethargica, and by the time they believed they had some answers, although not any concrete enough to consistently assist those suffering from it, Encephalitis Lethargica simply vanished from the world in 1927. This story is about the few neurologists, primarily in New York, who tirelessly studied this disease's effect. They visited homes and asylums, documented every patient and their unusual and devastating symptoms, spent further hours researching, and finally gave presentations on the disease to educate others. Their hope was to put an end to the ravaging effects of Encephalitis Lethargica before it reared its ugly ahead again. Molly Crosby truly has a knack for mixing elegant storytelling with researched historical events that entices readers right from the beginning, smoothly and consistently interests readers throughout with biographies of the key players, and well documented case studies, and closes with a personal account that brings the book full circle. Encephalitis Lethargica is a dreadfully serious disease, but is virtually an unknown and mysterious threat that continues to linger, throughout the world. However, thanks to this engrossing book, light is being shed upon the possible potential threat EL could have on people in the present day by exposing the events in detail that led up to the original epidemic. Readers should not be turned-off by this medical related topic when selecting their possible next read because although it is indeed packed full of research, it reads more like a fascinating medical mystery, rather than a stuffy research paper. Still, the book includes critical documentation that also makes it a crucial read for those in the medical field. Quill says: This is a well told and quite informative read about a virtually unknown disease, and is highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She smirked."Yes master."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She wraps her legs around his waist and pulled him closer to her face. "Do you want me too?" Her green eyes scanned his body
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Drugs her and makes her slave jk
HP_Enthusiast More than 1 year ago
I was browsing my local B&N store when I saw this on the table. It sounded like it might fall along the lines of the same movie Awakening. It is. If you like that movie, try this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
.