The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear
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The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear

4.4 26
by Seth Mnookin
     
 

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ISBN-10: 1439158649

ISBN-13: 9781439158647

Pub. Date: 01/11/2011

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

WHO DECIDES WHICH FACTS ARE TRUE?

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist with a history of self-promotion, published a paper with a shocking allegation: the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. The media seized hold of the story and, in the process, helped to launch one of the most devastating health scares ever. In the years to

Overview

WHO DECIDES WHICH FACTS ARE TRUE?

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist with a history of self-promotion, published a paper with a shocking allegation: the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. The media seized hold of the story and, in the process, helped to launch one of the most devastating health scares ever. In the years to come Wakefield would be revealed as a profiteer in league with class-action lawyers, and he would eventually lose his medical license. Meanwhile one study after another failed to find any link between childhood vaccines and autism.

Yet the myth that vaccines somehow cause developmental disorders lives on. Despite the lack of corroborating evidence, it has been popularized by media personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and Jenny McCarthy and legitimized by journalists who claim that they are just being fair to “both sides” of an issue about which there is little debate. Meanwhile millions of dollars have been diverted from potential breakthroughs in autism research, families have spent their savings on ineffective “miracle cures,” and declining vaccination rates have led to outbreaks of deadly illnesses like Hib, measles, and whooping cough. Most tragic of all is the increasing number of children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In The Panic Virus Seth Mnookin draws on interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists to tackle a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is? The fascinating answer helps explain everything from the persistence of conspiracy theories about 9/11 to the appeal of talk-show hosts who demand that President Obama “prove” he was born in America.

The Panic Virus is a riveting and sometimes heart-breaking medical detective story that explores the limits of rational thought. It is the ultimate cautionary tale for our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439158647
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
01/11/2011
Pages:
429
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.41(d)

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Panic Virus 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
JessLynne More than 1 year ago
In THE PANIC VIRUS, Mnookin effectively brings to life the debate over vacinations in hopes of delinquishing mass hysteria that has attacked child innoculations and blindly accuses thimerosal laced in needles to be a cause of autism. Mnookin's use of past disease statistics and personal accounts of disease-stricken children educates the reader on the horrific consequences of viruses in unvaccinated populations. The reader may be overwhelmed with mass evidence provided by Mnookin stating the power of scientific exploration. Although there is strong evidence of scientific success, Mnookin also reveals mistakes that have been made in early stages of vaccination production that may be a source of present hysteria. Nonetheless, this book digs into both sides of the debate and leaves science based on reason as a clear winner. I chose this book for an assignent in my english class that required me to read a nonfiction book that connects to my major, microbiology pathogenesis. When I purchased this book, I was unaware that the contents would move me and bring the nature of science so vividly to my discretion. As a young woman, I am oblivious of disasterous diseases such as measles and polio. Thanks to Mnookin, I was able to understand the montrous consequences of viruses, current hysteria of vaccinations, and public health relations regarding the growing field of microbial science. I was emotionally torn when I read of Baby Brie and her fight with whooping cough. As a studying microbiologist, I find it heart-breaking when people choose not to vaccinate when the science is so clear. After reading this book, I was inspired to inform the public of the importance of vaccinations. Unfortunately, mass media seems to bring about the resurgence of once eradicated diseases, such as whooping cough. I am hoping that the scientists of today can follow Mnookin's steps in attacking the anti-vaccine movement. This book was an excellent read and I suggest this book to be read by any parent or person desiring to have children because the debate over vaccinations is significant and deadly to humanity. Jessica, OSU Comp Student Spring 2011
ABthree More than 1 year ago
THE PANIC VIRUS is about the allegation that childhood vaccines cause autism, and the resulting anti-vaccine campaigns that have resulted in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Seth Mnookin's book starts out slow: there's a great deal of solid scientific study spanning decades to be explained and to his credit, he takes the time and space to do it. When he finishes, the case he makes is detailed and devastating. There is absolutely no reliable, reproducible science supporting the contention that childhood vaccines cause autism. There is, however, mounting and undeniable evidence that, because parents are neglecting to vaccinate their children in response to these groundless fears, communicable diseases that we thought conquered fifty to seventy years ago are making a comeback, and children are dying as a result. Public health officials were slow to appreciate the threat to public health that the anti-vaccine campaigns represented, and clumsy and flatfooted in their response, and in their attempt to educate the public; Mnookin makes no attempt to minimize their failings. Mnookin also makes it clear that the parents of autistic children, parents who have been the foot soldiers for these campaigns are not the villains here. These people who are trying night and day to do what's best for their children have been exploited by charlatans and misled by ill-informed celebrities without an iota of scientific or medical training. Their fault, if any, is one that we all share to a greater or lesser extent: uncritical use of and belief in the flood of information, and more particularly misinformation, available on the Internet. Mnookin reserves his real fire for three actors. The first is the junk scientists who publish results that cannot be reproduced, and then confuse the parents and other laypeople by insisting that, since legitimate scientists can't accomplish the logical impossibility of proving a negative -- in this case, that all vaccines are always safe for all children -- all vaccines must be suspect. The second is the list of celebrities who give a forum to the first group, and repeatedly tell parents that they should rely on "Mommy Instinct" (an actual term used in the campaigns) rather than science. The third, and perhaps the most culpable group, is those in the news media, who have consistently treated this debate as if it were a real "controversy" that required "equal time for both sides of the question", even though all the science and all the facts are on just one side, and wherever confusion is created, children are dying. Every parent of a small child should read this book. Parents of small children should especially read this book if they happen to meet this description from the book in any way: "These people were our peers: They gravitated toward fields like journalism or law or computer programming or public policy; they lived in college towns like Ann Arbor and Austin or sophisticated centers like Boston and Brooklyn; they drove Priuses and shopped at Whole Foods. They tended to be self-satisfied, found it difficult to conceive of a world in which their voices were not heard, and took pride in being intellectually curious, thoughtful and rational." Those towns and others like them are where the number of unvaccinated children is increasing today -- and where the outbreaks of tomorrow will probably originate, if the cur
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great, great read. Mnookin examines the reasons why an increasing number of people are resisting vaccination for their children, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary. He presents a history of vaccination and how the government and media have affected the public's understanding of vaccines. Mnookin's writing is clear and easy to read, and the book is very enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story about Matthew at the beginning was the perfect hook. I could barely put it down. Given that I was already in support of vaccination, I tried to approach it objectively so I just didn't nod obediently as Mnookin preached to the choir. Though some aspects were slightly sensationalized, on the whole it was very informative and eye opening, even to me (I considered myself pretty well educated in the controversy). It inspired me to do a bit of my own research into the topic, and that's been very fulfilling. I also thought he treated the topic of autism responsibly. I'm not personally acquainted with anyone afflicted with autism, but I don't believe it would be at all offensive to those who are. Overall, a great read for everyone from science lovers to new parents.
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