The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris

The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris

by Mark Honigsbaum

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Overview

A Financial Times Best Book of the Year


A medical historian narrates the last century of scientific struggle against an enduring enemy: deadly contagious disease.

Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. From the Spanish flu to the 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles to the 1930 “parrot fever” pandemic, through the more recent SARS, Ebola, and Zika epidemics, the last one hundred years have been marked by a succession of unanticipated pandemic alarms.

In The Pandemic Century, a lively account of scares both infamous and less known, Mark Honigsbaum combines reportage with the history of science and medical sociology to artfully reconstruct epidemiological mysteries and the ecology of infectious diseases. We meet dedicated disease detectives, obstructive or incompetent public health officials, and brilliant scientists often blinded by their own knowledge of bacteria and viruses. We also see how fear of disease often exacerbates racial, religious, and ethnic tensions—even though, as the epidemiologists Malik Peiris and Yi Guan write, “nature’ remains the greatest bioterrorist threat of all.”

Like man-eating sharks, predatory pathogens are always present in nature, waiting to strike; when one is seemingly vanquished, others appear in its place. These pandemics remind us of the limits of scientific knowledge, as well as the role that human behavior and technologies play in the emergence and spread of microbial diseases.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393254754
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 139,851
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Mark Honigsbaum is a medical historian, journalist, and author of five books including The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris and The Fever Trail: In Search of the Cure for Malaria. He is currently a lecturer at City University of London.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Sharks and Other Predators 1

Chapter I The Blue Death 17

Chapter II Plague in the City of Angels 63

Chapter IV The "Philly Killer" 145

Chapter V Legionnaires' Redux 175

Chapter VI Aids in America, Aids in Africa 193

Chapter VII Sars: "Super Spreader" 237

Chapter VIII Ebola at the Borders 277

Chapter IX Z is for Zika 317

Epilogue: The Pandemic Century 361

Acknowledgments 369

Abbreviations 373

Notes 375

Illustration Credits 421

Index 423

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