His goal—to prevent every disease that commonly attacked children—was unattainable. But Maurice Hilleman came close.
Maurice Hilleman is the father of modern vaccines. Chief among his accomplishments are nine vaccines that practically every child gets, rendering formerly deadly diseases—including mumps, rubella, and measles—nearly forgotten. Author Paul A. Offit’s rich and lively narrative details Hilleman’s research and experiences as the basis for a larger exploration of the development of vaccines, covering two hundred years of medical history and traveling across the globe in the process. The history of vaccines necessarily brings with it a cautionary message, as they have come under assault from those insisting they do more harm than good. Paul Offit clearly and compellingly rebuts these arguments, and, by demonstrating how much the work of Hilleman and others has gained for humanity, shows us how much we have to lose.
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About the Author
Paul A. Offit, MD, is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as the acclaimed author of Autism's False Prophets, Vaccinated, and Deadly Choices.
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One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases
"My God: This Is the Pandemic. It's Here!"
"I had a little bird, and its name was Enza,
I opened the window, and in-flew-Enza."
Children's rhyme during the 1918 flu pandemic
In May 1997 a three-year-old boy in Hong Kong died of influenza. His death wasn't unusual. Every year in every country in every corner of the world healthy children die of the disease. But this infection was different. Health officials couldn't figure out what type of influenza virus had killed the boy, so they sent a sample of it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. There, researchers found that this particular virus had never infected people before. A few months passed. The rare influenza virus infected no one else—not the boy's parents, or his relatives, or his friends, or his classmates. Later, the CDC sent a team of scientists to Hong Kong to investigate. Crowded into a wet market, where local farmers slaughtered and sold their chickens, they found what they were looking for—the source of the deadly virus. "The people here like their chickens fresh," one investigator said. "Hygiene consists of a douse with cold water. [One day] we saw a bird standing up there, pecking away at its food, and then very gently lean over, slowly fall over, to lie on its side, looking dead. Blood was trickling from [its beak]. It was a very unreal, bizarre situation. I had never seen anything like it." The disease spread to another chicken and another.
The strain of influenza virus that infected birds inSoutheast Asia was particularly deadly, killing seven of every ten chickens. On December 30, 1997, Hong Kong health officials, in an effort to control the outbreak of bird flu before it spread to more people, slaughtered more than a million chickens. Still the virus spread. Bird flu attacked chickens in Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Then, to the horror of local physicians, the virus infected eighteen more people, killing six—a death rate of 33 percent. (Typically influenza kills fewer than 2 percent of its victims.) Soon the virus disappeared. Officials waited for an outbreak the following year, but none came. And it didn't come the year after that or the year after that. The virus lay silent, waiting.
In late 2003, six years after the initial outbreak, bird flu reappeared in Southeast Asia. This time health officials found it even harder to control. Again, the virus first infected chickens. Officials responded by slaughtering hundreds of millions of them. Despite their efforts, bird flu spread from chickens to ducks, geese, turkeys, and quail. Then the virus spread to mammals: first to mice, then to cats, then to a tiger in a Thai zoo, then to pigs, then to humans. By April 2005, bird flu had infected ninety-seven people and killed fifty-three—a death rate of 55 percent.
By September 2006 the virus had spread from birds in Asia to those in Europe, the Near East, and Africa. Two hundred fifty people living close to these birds got sick, and 146 of them died. International health officials feared that the appearance of bird flu in Southeast Asia signaled the start of a worldwide epidemic (pandemic). One later remarked, "The clock is ticking. We just don't know what time it is."
Health officials feared an influenza pandemic because they knew just how devastating pandemics could be. During the pandemic of 1918 and 1919—the one called the last great plague—influenza infected five hundred million people, half the world's population. The virus, which traveled to virtually every country and territory in the world, hit the United States particularly hard. In a single month, October 1918, four hundred thousand Americans died of influenza. Influenza typically kills the most vulnerable members of the population, the sick and the elderly. But the 1918 virus was different: it killed healthy young adults. In one year the average life span of Americans in their twenties and thirties decreased by 25 percent. When it was over, the 1918 pandemic—the most devastating outbreak of an infectious disease in medical history—had killed between fifty million- and one hundred million people worldwide, all within a single year. In comparison, since the 1970s the AIDS pandemic has killed twenty-five million people.
Pandemics of influenza are inevitable. During the past three hundred years, the world has suffered ten of them, about three per century. No century has ever avoided one. But despite their frequency and reproducibility, only one man has ever successfully predicted an influenza pandemic and done something about it.
His name was Maurice Hilleman. Born Saturday morning, August 30, 1919, during the worst influenza pandemic in history, Hilleman was the eighth child of Anna and Gustave Hillemann. (Because of intense anti-German sentiment following the First World War, Hilleman's parents deleted the second n on his birth certificate.) Devoutly religious, Anna and Gustave named him and his sister (Elsie) and all of his brothers (Walter, Howard, Victor, Harold, Richard, and Norman) after heroic characters in the Elsie Dinsmore books, stories of Christian faith popular in the late 1800s. The birth took place in the family's home on the banks of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers, near Miles City, Montana.
After Maurice's birth, and to the surprise of the homeopath who delivered him, a second child, Maureen, was also born, still and lifeless. The doctor tried desperately but unsuccessfully to revive her. He cupped his hands around her back and, using only his thumbs, periodically pushed down on her tiny chest. At the same time, he tried to breathe air into her lungs. It was no use. From the corner of the room, Anna Hillemann quietly watched the doctor try to save her baby daughter. When she learned that Maureen was dead, Anna closed her eyes, saying nothing. Gustave buried Maureen the following day, August 31.
Hours after the delivery, while she was holding her infant son, Anna's body stiffened, her eyes rolled up in . . .Vaccinated
One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases. Copyright © by Paul Offit. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
The Time Capsule xiii
"My God: This Is the Pandemic. It's Here!" 1
Jeryl Lynn 20
Eight Doors 31
The Destroying Angel 44
Coughs, Colds, Cancers, and Chickens 57
The Monster Maker 69
Political Science 90
An Uncertain Future 156
Unrecognized Genius 186
Selected Bibliography 239
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had no idea how vaccines came about and who created them and how they were invented or tested until I read this amazing book! It's fascinating and informative! Until I read this book I had no clear picture of the devastation and tragedy these deadly diseases caused pre vaccine. Millions of people around the world (mostly children and including in the US) died yearly and just as many were crippled and maimed by them every year. This man should be revered and honored throughout the word and I am shocked I am only just hearing his story. Read this book!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It strikes a brilliant balance between being thorough in it's scientific explanations and being, well, not over my head. Dr. Offit also masterfully weaves together the many different histories of the various people, scientific advances, and political agendas involved in the story of modern vaccines. I highly recommend reading this book.
There are few books that show the direct impact that microbiology has on modern life. There are fewer that show the impact going down to the level of technique and can remain available to the untrained reader. This book does not require understanding of technique, but for the trained, it increases appreciation. An unsung hero gets his song in a book that is about both him and his field of work. It deviates away from him frequently, but only to discuss relevant subjects then returns to the subject in a way that makes you want to read more. The back cover notes that Dr. Offit worked on the rotavirus vaccine, so he is very well informed on the subjects he discusses. When the vaccine development is discussed, it seems odd that he does not mention his role, but the final chapter puts this in perspective. The references section is substantial. This book is an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to learn about vaccines. This book is a worthy companion to "Microbe Hunters". They both show the good and occasional bad that microbiology have provided to modern life. For the microbiologist is is a marvelous perspective on what has been done, and for the general reader it shows the contributions of microbiology to modern life which are taken for granted. Where Paul de Kruif used flourishes of poetic hyperbole and ebullient enthusiasm, Paul Offit uses genuine human interest. This is a must-read for microbiologists and a should-read for those who love the history of science and technology.
Whether you have a science or health care background or are simply interested in the history and science of vaccines, you will find this book absolutely engaging. Dr. Offit captures the history of vaccines in enough detail to keep the reader interested but does not overwhelm with historical descriptions. Some of the history will shock you. Even better, Dr. Offit clearly, succinctly, and engagingly explains the science behind the various vaccines and their development techniques. Those with a medical/nursing/research background may find the science a bit basic but will still appreciate the picture that Dr. Offit's basic explanations present. A must read!