Title............: The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History
Author...........: John M. Mayer
Read By..........: Scott Brick
Publisher........: Penguin Audio; Unabridged edition (March 16, 2006)
Original Media Information
Media............: 16 CDs
Number of MP3s...: 16
Total Duration...: 19 hours 26 minutes
Total MP3 Size...: 680 MB
Ripped by........: deandominic
Ripper...........: Exact Audio Copy
Encoder..........: LAME 3.98
Encoder Settings.: ABR 80 kbit/s 44100 Hz Mono
ID3 Tags.........: v1.1, v2.3 (includes embedded album art)
No disease the world has ever known even remotely resembles the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Presumed to have begun when sick farm animals infected soldiers in Kansas, spreading and mutating into a lethal strain as troops carried it to Europe, it exploded across the world with unequaled ferocity and speed. It killed more people in twenty weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty years; it killed more people in a year than the plagues of the Middle Ages killed in a century. Victims bled from the ears and nose, turned blue from lack of oxygen, suffered aches that felt like bones being broken, and died. In the United States, where bodies were stacked without coffins on trucks, nearly seven times as many people died of influenza as in the First World War.
In his powerful new book, award-winning historian John M. Barry unfolds a tale that is magisterial in its breadth and in the depth of its research, and spellbinding as he weaves multiple narrative strands together. In this first great collision between science and epidemic disease, even as society approached collapse, a handful of heroic researchers stepped forward, risking their lives to confront this strange disease. Titans like William Welch at the newly formed Johns Hopkins Medical School and colleagues at Rockefeller University and others from around the country revolutionized American science and public health, and their work in this crisis led to crucial discoveries that we are still using and learning from today.
From The New England Journal of Medicine
The connection among public health, epidemic disease, and politics can be seen throughout history, from the responses to the Black Death in Italian cities in 1348 to the response -- or lack thereof -- to the resurgence of tuberculosis on the part of the New York City Department of Health in the 1980s. John M. Barry spells out this connection in fascinating detail in The Great Influenza. In his meticulous description of the dire consequences that resulted when short-term political expediency trumped the health of the public during the 1918 influenza pandemic, Barry reminds his readers that the government response to an epidemic is all too often colored by the politics of the moment. Barry is neither a scientist nor a professional historian, and some of the details he gives on virology and immunology are clearly targeted at a nonmedical audience, but physicians and scientists will find this book engrossing nonetheless. The influenza pandemic of 1918, the worst pandemic in history, killed more people than died in World War I and more than the tens of millions who have died, to date, in the AIDS pandemic. Barry focuses only on what was occurring in the United States at the time, and he tries to place this unprecedented human disaster both against the background of American history and within the context of the history of medicine. He is right to try to acquaint the reader with the state of American medicine at the turn of the last century, focusing on the dismal status of medical education and laboratory research, particularly as compared with that in Europe at the same time. Much of his discussion centers on "great men" (and an occasional great woman), however, and the picture given of their lives and professional careers is superficial and occasionally repetitious, and it distracts from the main events. His point, presumably, is to convey the futility of all the efforts of these brilliant minds, and he begins and ends the book with anecdotes about Paul Lewis, a scientist who had helped to prove that poliomyelitis is caused by a virus and then developed a highly effective simian vaccine. Lewis is the symbol of the best and the brightest of the scientific establishment, and we follow him as he weaves in and out of the story. He, like all scientists of his time, failed to grasp the fact that influenza was caused by a virus, believing it to be caused by Pfeiffer's bacillus, and he was therefore unable to develop a successful vaccine or to halt the devastation. The book becomes riveting once Barry begins to describe the origins and early weeks of the epidemic. The fact that it was wartime and that hundreds of thousands of men were being called up, placed in overcrowded camps, and packed like sardines into ships to be delivered as efficiently as possible to Europe enabled influenza to spread rapidly among recruits. From the military camps, the virus spread into the civilian population in the United States and from the United States to France. Barry describes the first catastrophe at Camp Devens, in Massachusetts, in the late summer of 1918, where thousands of previously healthy men in their prime suddenly became critically ill, overwhelming the inadequate camp hospital, infecting the medical staff, and dying by the hundreds, apparently with acute respiratory distress syndrome. The smartest and most hardworking scientists, physicians, and nurses, both military and civilian, were stunned by the rapidity of the disease progression and the inexplicable death toll among the youngest and strongest. (Figure) Barry provides a fascinating picture of the response of the government -- both federal and local. The former was sluggish at best and secretive and dishonest at worst, desperate to keep the war effort going and the public calm and to minimize the severity of the disease. In one of the more gripping chapters, Barry focuses on Philadelphia and tells us of the backwardness of its social infrastructure, the lack of a functioning health department, and the power of the local political machine. Dr. Wilmer Krusen, a political appointee who was the director of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Charities, deliberately ignored warnings against allowing a Liberty Loan parade to proceed, even though influenza had devastated the local Navy Yard and begun to spread into the civilian population. Within 72 hours of the parade, every bed in Philadelphia's 31 hospitals was filled. Within 10 days the epidemic exploded from a few hundred civilian cases to hundreds of thousands and from a daily rate of one or two deaths to hundreds. The horror is most vivid in the dilemma surrounding the disposal of bodies. The city morgue had hundreds of bodies stacked up, which produced an unbearable stench, and undertakers rapidly ran out of coffins. Hundreds of bodies lay in homes exactly where they had been at the time of death; burial quickly became impossible, since there were not enough people to dig graves. Whether anything might have been done differently, and if it had, whether this would have made a difference, are questions that Barry leaves unanswered. His tone is often irritatingly and unnecessarily sensationalist. But his indictment of the public authorities for their dishonesty and deliberate minimization of the damage and dangers is particularly chilling in today's climate of bioterrorism, in the midst of a war whose damages and dangers have been similarly minimized. Barry makes it all too easy to imagine a similarly devastating epidemic with a similarly inadequate response. I highly recommend this book to all. Karen Brudney, M.D.