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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Strange as it may sound, not long ago a large segment of the United States was being terrorized by a flea. Combining medical and social history with a remarkable study of the personalities involved, Marilyn Chase casts a fascinating light on a nearly forgotten time in American history: the hunting down of infected rats and fleas transmitting the deadly bubonic plague.
The history begins with a lumber salesman's death in 1900, setting off a wave of hysteria in San Francisco's Chinatown. The decade that followed was marked by mutual suspicion between Chinese immigrants and their white counterparts, and shameful finger pointing and denials of the existence of a health crisis. Into the maelstrom walked Rupert Blue, an undistinguished doctor appointed to investigate the epidemic by the federal government. Blue had a surprising ability to ease racial tensions and a relentless devotion to finding the cause of the mounting epidemic. His discovery that the transmission of the plague was caused by common fleas led him to erect an extraordinary mission, eradicating millions of rats in San Francisco and saving countless human lives.
Chase's research is formidable, but her literary talent brings this harrowing episode to life with exacting detail, offering a nervous post-9/11 public some historical perspective on our nation's ability to deal with deadly biological threats. (Spring 2003 Selection)