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The American Plague: The Untold Story of…
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The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That… (2003)

by Molly Caldwell Crosby

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During a single summer in 1878, yellow fever killed more people in Memphis than the Chicago fire, the San Francisco earthquake, and the Johnstown flood combined. Memphis was turned into a city of corpses. Scientists, doctors, nuns--no one knew how to turn back the tide of disease. There was no known cause, no known treatment, and certainly no cure or prevention. Crosby does a passable job evoking the feelings and political implications of the epidemic, but falls apart when it comes to scientific writing. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Molly Caldwell Crosby is a best-selling author and journalist.
She lives in Memphis, Tenn with her family.

In 2006, The American Plague was her debut book.
The sub title is the untold story of yellow fever, the epidemic that shaped our history.

In 1878, Memphis, Tenn was "poised for greatness"
"By year end, it would suffer losses greater than the Chicago fire, San Francisco earthquake and Johnstown flood combined."

Our narrative beings in Memphis, 1878 and the journey continues into Cuba and West Africa, where a handful of doctors would transform medical history.
The virus originally arrived in Western Hemisphere, by slave ships.
It was estimated to strike 500,000 Americans, killing 100,000.
An interesting fact: "It attacked port towns and found its lifeblood in the Mississippi River. "

Notes, bibliography and acknowledgments are extensive.
My comments can only skim the surface.
Molly Caldwell Crosby approaches yellow fever with fervor and develops ancillary medical events in depth.

★ ★ ★ ★ ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 31, 2016 |
Bits about the disease are interesting; the other bits, not so much. ( )
  Michael.Xolotl | Nov 11, 2015 |
You don't hear about Yellow Fever in popular science as much as other diseases such as Ebola, Smallpox, and Plague, but it has proven to be a devastating disease in the past. Not only is it a hemorrhagic fever like Ebola, but it is spread by mosquitoes, so it can be difficult to contain. Maybe it isn't taken seriously because of it's milder forms, in the same way that people forget how deadly the flu can become, plus the fact that it is manageable now with vaccines. There is still no cure after someone becomes infected, however, and so it can wreak havoc on a community if it moves into an area that isn't normally exposed to it. I genuine concern with rising global temperatures creating new habitats for the mosquitoes.

The American Plague is divided into 3 parts. The first focuses on the 1878 outbreak in Memphis, Tennessee, which may have had a major impact on the development of the United States at the time. She then moves on to Cuba, detailing the controversial (and deadly) studies of the disease and how Walter Reed and his team of scientists discovered/confirmed the mosquito vector of the virus, and at the end there is a short section detailing more modern information about Yellow Fever.

I enjoyed the book. It's smooth and readable, and will appeal to science and history lovers alike. The format is what makes it so readable, iti almost feels fictionalized at time, but the everything is taken from diaries and journals written by the people she is discussing. There are extensive notes in the back detailing where all the information is coming from, which you expect from a work of nonfiction, but she personalizes it and discusses it openly in her Notes section, which I appreciated.

I would definitely recommend it to those interested in the topic. ( )
  Ape | Aug 7, 2015 |
Read in May, 2013
Format Hardcover (edit)
Review Molly Caldwell Crosby is a best-selling author and journalist.
She lives in Memphis, Tenn with her family.

In 2006, The American Plague was her debut book.
The sub title is the untold story of yellow fever, the epidemic that shaped our history.

In 1878, Memphis, Tenn was "poised for greatness"
"By year end, it would suffer losses greater than the Chicago fire, San Francisco earthquake and Johnstown flood combined."

Our narrative beings in Memphis, 1878 and the journey continues into Cuba and West Africa, where a handful of doctors would transform medical history.
The virus originally arrived in Western Hemisphere, by slave ships.
It was estimated to strike 500,000 Americans, killing 100,000.
An interesting fact: "It attacked port towns and found its lifeblood in the Mississippi River. "

Notes, bibliography and acknowledgments are extensive.
My comments can only skim the surface.
Molly Caldwell Crosby approaches yellow fever with fervor and develops ancillary medical events in depth. ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
“American Plague” is not as swift or dramatic as the outbreaks it profiles. The story line through the first half of the book is patchy, jumping from Memphis to Cuba to the Spanish-American War, pausing often to provide the background of one or another minor character. The names come at you like mosquitoes in a sultry Tennessee dusk: an irritating swarm, too many to keep track of. There’s no one to hook arms with and march through the chapters. Though to be fair, Crosby’s in a narrative pickle: What’s a writer to do when her characters keep dropping dead 48 hours after she introduces them? The mosquitoes in this book have longer life spans.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Mary Roach (Jun 26, 2011)
 
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Epigraph
Nothing is an accident. Fever grows in the secret places of our hearts, planted there when one of us decided to sell one of us to another. - John Edgar Wideman, Fever
Dedication
First words
The flies had been swarming around the house for days.
Quotations
The fever attacked each person in the Angevine family, one after the other, until none were well enough to help the others. It hit suddenly in the form of a piercing headache and painful sensitivity to light, like looking into a white sun. At that point, the patient could still hope that it was not yellow fever, maybe just a headache from the heat. But the pain worsened, crippling movement and burning the skin. The fever rose to 104, maybe 105 degrees, and bones felt as though they had been cracked. The kidneys stopped functioning, poisoning the body. Abdominal cramps began in the final days of illness as the patient vomited black blood brought on by internal hemorrhaging. The victim became a palate of hideous color: Red blood ran from the gums, eyes and nose. The tongue swelled, turning purple. Black vomit roiled. And the skin grew a deep gold, the whites of the eyes turning brilliant yellow.
"I can think of no other disease who killed so many scientists studying it."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425217752, Paperback)

In this national-bestselling account, a journalist traces the course of yellow fever, stopping in 1878 Memphis to "vividly [evoke] the Faulkner-meets-'Dawn of the Dead' horrors,"*-and moving on to today's strain of the killer virus.

Over the course of history, yellow fever has paralyzed governments, halted commerce, quarantined cities, moved the U.S. capital, and altered the outcome of wars. During a single summer in Memphis alone, it cost more lives than the Chicago fire, the San Francisco earthquake, and the Johnstown flood combined.

In 1900, the U.S. sent three doctors to Cuba to discover how yellow fever was spread. There, they launched one of history's most controversial human studies. Compelling and terrifying, The American Plague depicts the story of yellow fever and its reign in this country-and in Africa, where even today it strikes thousands every year. With "arresting tales of heroism,"** it is a story as much about the nature of human beings as it is about the nature of disease.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:16 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Traces the impact on American history of yellow fever from the mid-seventeenth century onward, examining in particular the near-destruction of Memphis from the disease and the efforts of U.S. medical officers to combat the deadly scourge.

» see all 2 descriptions

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