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The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the…

The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History

by John M. Barry

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2,211672,943 (3.89)2 / 155

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Bit disappointing that Australia was left to the very end and then brushed off by saying that it wasn't as severe here. My two great-aunts who died from the influenza might beg to disagree. ( )
  drmaf | Oct 26, 2015 |
This was a fun book (I know that sounds wrong given the topic) about the influenza outbreak that happened at the end of WWI. I knew that it had happened, but I really didn't know how hard the United States was hit or that it likely started here. I was under the impression it took place mainly in Europe so the whole book was basically news to me.

I appreciated that Barry took the time to give a little background on the history of medicine in America and also spent a lot of time on medical research about and around influenza. I though he got a little overly sensational at times, especially when discussing possible current day epidemics. That's not to say I think it couldn't happen; I just thought his tone was a little repetitive and over the top.

All in all I enjoyed reading this and learned quite a bit both about the history of medicine and the social history of the outbreak. It's definitely a topic that I hope our government and medical facilities have contemplated and done some planning for in terms of future outbreaks. ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 3, 2015 |
Before the world wide pandemic faded in 1920, the great influenza would kill more people than any other outbreak of disease in history.

The lowest world wide death toll is 21 million people.

2/3 of the deaths occurred between mid Sept 1918 and early Dec 1918.

Although not a scientist, Barry's microbiological segments were detailed.
The tenacity and persistence of these investigators is amazing.
Having worked in this discipline, I can, in particular, appreciate their
contributions to modern medicine.

As a side note
"In 2004, the National Academies of Science asked him (John Barry) to give the keynote speech at its first international scientific meeting on pandemic influenza, he was the only non-scientist on a federal government Infectious Disease Board of Experts, and he was a member of the original team which developed plans for mitigating a pandemic by using "non-pharmaceutical interventions"--

Military, political and other social environments are examined systematically..
Slowly a body of knowledge emerged, contributed by hundreds of investigators in many disciplines.
This provides a model, ever evolving, to face current and future disease states.

An interesting lesson learned from 1918 outbreak involved fear and the media.
In this case, "authorities helped create the terror, not by exaggerating but by minimizing it, (by trying to reassure.)"

Notes and bibliography are extensive.
There is a wealth of information in this epic.
There is something for everyone interested in a historical perspective of the times.
( )
  pennsylady | Jan 14, 2015 |
The Great Influenza focuses on both the actual pandemic of 1918 and the problems associated with it as well as the science and doctors who fought, and in some cases died, to understand and stop this pandemic. Most of the material is drawn from the US, with some mention of events in other parts of the world. The book contains photographic plates as well as an extensive bibliography.

I approached this book with some apprehension, fearing that it would be a dry recitation of statistics about deaths, illness, etc. Instead, I found a book that both gave the important statistics and clearly set them in context regarding science, society, and history. The writing was well done -- perhaps not the best prose, but not dry nor tedious.

If there was a criticism to make it would be the last few chapters, where some of the biographical information about the researchers seemed to far from the topic. Additionally, I would have liked to see a more thorough discussion of how viruses mutate -- this perhaps would have been best as an appendix, but it was a key point in the book (as the flu came in waves after each mutation).

Overall, this was a very good book and one that I highly recommend to others interested either in epidemics or in science circa 1920. ( )
  LMHTWB | Dec 14, 2014 |
I approached this mammoth book with excitement, which soon dimmed as I slogged through the first 100 pages. It was all background on academic changes regarding science and research, especially in the forming of Johns Hopkins and the Rockefeller Institute, and key figures in this advancement. Interesting stuff, if in a small dose, but it dragged on as I was impatient to get to the actual influenza outbreak. Once I reached that part, I found the book I had hoped for and sped through hundreds of pages in a matter of days. I also jotted down notes related to writing projects. The last part of the book returned to the pivotal men mentioned at the front, and I pretty much skimmed just to have the thing done. So many names were thrown at me that I couldn't keep them straight.

It was a frustrating, disappointing book overall. If I wanted a book about medical science in general for that time period, I would find a book on that subject. This one is titled THE GREAT INFLUENZA. That should be the central subject. This text needed more editorial control--someone to lop off the first and last third. ( )
  ladycato | Nov 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
John M. Barry calls The Great Influenza "the epic story of the deadliest plague in history," but his book is somewhat more idiosyncratic than epic and in any case is not as interested in the 1918 influenza pandemic as in the careers of those American medical researchers who studied the disease.
added by John_Vaughan | editlection, Tim morris (Jun 26, 2011)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143036491, Paperback)

At the height of WWI, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research and now revised to reflect the growing danger of the avian flu, The Great Influenza is ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, which provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon. John M. Barry has written a new afterword for this edition that brings us up to speed on the terrible threat of the avian flu and suggest ways in which we might head off another flu pandemic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In the winter of 1918, at the height of WWI, history's most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, John M. Barry's The Great Influenza weaves together multiple narratives, with characters ranging from William Welch (founder of Johns Hopkins Medical School) to John D. Rockefeller and Woodrow Wilson. Ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, this crisis provides a precise and sobering model for our world as we confront AIDS, bioterrorism and other, as yet unknown, diseases.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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