Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic That Shaped Our History by Molliy Caldwell Crosby

genre: history, nonfiction

How much do you know about Yellow Fever?  Anyone?  Anyone?  I can't possibly be the only person who knew NOTHING about this disease.  I am embarrassed, now that I have read this incredible book, about how little I knew. This fever literally ground life to a halt in parts of our country, over and over again.  Her descriptions of life during Yellow Fever epidemics was chilling, disgusting and unsettling.    No wonder our government was frantic to figure out what caused it, how it spread, and how to get rid of it.

This book is both a history of the disease in our country (and Cuba) as well as the story how how we figured it out - the story of scientists that literally put their lives on the line to save humanity from this terrifying hemorrhagic fever.  Although I have heard the name Walter Reed all of my life, I had no idea that he was such an important part of this story.  I also need to keep reading things like this because it is so easy to forget how hard life was before we know what we know.  When people did NOT know about viruses or about insects transmitting disease or that it was even important to keep the privy away from the drinking water.

When you have a sister who is an epidemiologist, all kinds of interesting books end up in your hands.  I would have never picked this one up on my own but holy cow, it was readable and fascinating.  Beware, however - you may never look at mosquitoes the same way again.


bermudaonion said...

I did know yellow fever was spread by mosquitoes but that's about it. This book sounds interesting.

Dee said...

"I would have never picked this one up on my own but holy cow, it was readable and fascinating."

More than once, I have been deceived by seemingly innocuous books that have proven to be worthwhile reads in the long run.

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