Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Influenza by Jeremy Brown
Simon & Schuster: 12/18/18
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501181245

Influenza: The Hundred Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History by Jeremy Brown is a very highly recommended, fascinating exploration of the history of the flu virus and the search for a cure.

The 1918 Flu pandemic left an estimated 50 to 100 million people dead worldwide. Ever since then the search has been on to find a cure before the outbreak another world wide influenza pandemic. Brown discusses where the 1918 flu may have started (we don't know for certain) and the various cures that have been tried over the years. Now we know influenza is a virus and that virus mutates into other strains of the flu, making a cure even more challenging. In a conversational style, Dr. Jeremy Brown, currently Director of Emergency Care Research at the National Institutes of Health, shares information from leading epidemiologists, policy makers, and the researcher who first sequenced the genetic building blocks of the original 1918 virus.
He doesn't shy away from the many questions and misinformation swirling around vaccinations, anti-viral drugs, and government preparation for the next epidemic. He also tackles the media's role in exaggeration and swaying public opinion through emotion, anxiety, and misinformation, as well as the more recent role of social media outbreak spreading misinformation, exaggeration, and fear faster than the actual flu virus was spreading. He also discusses the pharmaceutical companies influence and their lobbying efforts, which are largely based on fear.
Deaths from the flu do occur every year and there are groups of the population that are more susceptible, but this does not include everyone. Dr. Brown points out several different public panics over influenza outbreaks (which I clearly remember), and how the actual outbreak was not as huge as the fear spread through the media. Additionally, information people hear on the news, whether it is correct or fact-based or not, makes people and policy makers start quoting and spreading the misinformation.
This is an eminently well-written and engrossing examination of the history and current information about the influenza virus. The conversational writing style and the logical organization of the book make the information easily understood and assimilated, even for those readers who typically shun medical/historical nonfiction.  As is my wont for informational nonfiction selections, I always appreciated the inclusion of notes, a complete bibliography, and an index.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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