Syphilis, Tuberculosis, and Cholera
Leprosy, Typhoid, and Spanish Flu
There is still no cure for EL, and its rise and subsequent disappearance is still regarded as something of a mystery.
I have heard of this before but only in the obscure and morbidly fascinating sense, think more horror movie than documentary. The unknown-ness of this one draws me and repels me away. Reading about how it affected people's personalities, bodily functions, and sent them into comas is frightening.
If you are interested in following a line of thought on interrelated diseases, though, some scientists today think that EL is related to streptococcal bacteria, so that’s a fun thing to consider when you get strep throat.
I have never heard and this and can I just say WHAT?!? Reading about how adult's showed after effects of Postencephalitic Parkinson’s disease which led them to L-dopa as a cure and how it initially worked, the woman waking up from a coma years later and thinking it was early 1940s when it was late 1960s, was wild. I think this "plague" was added to just scare the crap out of everyone as there is still no known cure but I guess it hasn't made any more appearances? This is one I'm going to have to investigate further because how freaking wild that it seems to suddenly appear in 1916 and disappear in 1920s. I guess I'd put my bet on Aliens.
Somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of lobotomies were performed on women, despite a greater percentage of men being institutionalized.
This probably shouldn't have been included in a plague book but it is important to discuss, so I'll allow it. I'm against lobotomies, so I had no problem how the author discussed Freeman, the physician behind the start, procedure, and craze of them. The accounts of how he went about them, snipping here and there, until he got the desired amount of not quite comatose in patients, is horrifying and rage inducing.
A charismatic demagogue was elevated and trusted because he was captivating and because researching facts, as well as listening to dull doctors who have done their homework, is hard and time-consuming.
This quote, I can't tell you how much I feel this quote down into my soul right now. Reading about how women who were listed as menopausal or hysterical, by doctors that didn't even converse with them but rather their husbands and given over to Freeman for lobotomies had me fighting tears. This chapter was all about making sure there are committees, watchdogs, or the like in place to stop charismatic, mad medical field individuals from dazzling people with their "science".
Well, herd immunity works for most diseases only if about 80 to 90 percent of the population is vaccinated. With some diseases, like measles, a 95 percent vaccination rate is necessary.
Again, vaccinate your kids.
I have to say, I'm not sure I knew Polio came from contaminated water or food, kind of like typhoid. That is how well we eradicated it, I didn't even know what caused it! The author talked about live virus and killer virus vaccines and the rivalry between Salk and Sabin to get there. I've heard of Salk before because of how he used unwittingly mental health patients for clinical trials, which the author mentioned but after saying he should be considered close to a saint. I'm not quite there on him but I'm a grey shades person and as long as you mention the shitty aspects I don't have a problem stating all the good he also did. Seems wild in today's atmosphere of people dying because the price of their insulin is too much money that he didn't patent his vaccine but I'd like to read more on the legalities of if and how he could have.
My favorite part of this section was the focus on how representation matters and how FDR gave hope and pride to fellow Polio survivors.
Those who had AIDS survived because they, like Mr. Crumpton’s No Nose’d Club for syphilitics, founded groups like the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP to fight for their right to live. They supported one another. They protested. They yelled. They made people extremely uncomfortable.
I'm not a scientist or in the medical field, so there was definitely new information for me to gain from reading this. I went in thinking this was going to be a drier, informative read but realized very early on that my expectations needed to be changed. This is more of a coffee table book where casual readers can just pick it up and learn some interesting facts that will either make them popular on trivia night or send them down a drier text reading rabbit hole.
The author has a sarcastic, pop culture heavy tone that could turn some people off as we discussing real horrible deaths but I'm a bit of a gallows humor gal myself, so except for a couple times, I wasn't put off or offended. I do think the pop culture references are going to date this and age it out of future circulation.
All in all, I learned some facts, was intrigued to research some, and enjoyed this more surface look into diseases. This book is not for experts in the field but the average person could definitely get something out of it. However, if you're an anti-vaxxer, you'd probably get huffy over the author's constant reminder that you should probably reevaluate your thinking (I completely agree with her).