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Flu (1999)

by Gina Kolata

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1,2633414,989 (3.71)1 / 59
Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Veteran journalist Gina Kolata's Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It presents a fascinating look at true story of the world's deadliest disease.

In 1918, the Great Flu Epidemic felled the young and healthy virtually overnight. An estimated forty million people died as the epidemic raged. Children were left orphaned and families were devastated. As many American soldiers were killed by the 1918 flu as were killed in battle during World War I. And no area of the globe was safe. Eskimos living in remote outposts in the frozen tundra were sickened and killed by the flu in such numbers that entire villages were wiped out.
Scientists have recently rediscovered shards of the flu virus frozen in Alaska and preserved in scraps of tissue in a government warehouse. Gina Kolata, an acclaimed reporter for The New York Times, unravels the mystery of this lethal virus with the high drama of a great adventure story. Delving into the history of the flu and previous epidemics, detailing the science and the latest understanding of this mortal disease, Kolata addresses the prospects for a great epidemic recurring, and, most important, what can be done to prevent it.

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» See also 59 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
A good account of the history of the 1918 worldwide influenza epidemic which was forgotten about for many years, perhaps because of the psychological impact on the survivors, coming as it did in the final phases of a terrible dragged-out war. The book includes firsthand accounts of the harrowing symptoms and mass deaths of, in the main, young healthy people. It then goes on to recount a short history of the discovery of viruses and how they operate, and the various individuals who have investigated them and tried to find preserved specimens of the 1918 virus to develop a vaccine against the threat of its return.

The book does flag a bit in the middle when it gets bogged down in the details of lawsuits and insurance claims arising from the 1976 mass vaccination programme in the USA, but on the whole it is a good account of the difficulties of combating the constantly variable influenza virus and the dilemma facing health care professionals and governmental officials: whether or not to vaccinate the population when a virus breaks out that looks serious - because it could turn out to be a false alarm costing a huge amount and risking side effects, but if you don't, it could be the return of a killer flu. The book does make clear what a no win situation this is. In summary, it is a good account of the 'forgotten epidemic' and the ongoing background threat of influenza. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Very readable and interesting account of the work of virus “detectives.” ( )
  EZLivin | Jul 4, 2023 |
A fascinating story about the quest to find and decode the 1918 influenza virus. It's a bit outdated now, thanks to advances in science, but still a good and informative read. I only had two complaints: I wished for footnotes, rather than the endnotes that weren't easy to reference without superscript numbers, and I wished Kolata's telling was more of a timeline rather than individual's stories. The first is rather minor, but the second would have made it easier to keep track of the narrative and just when certain events happened. ( )
  wisemetis | Jan 15, 2023 |
This isn’t really the story of the pandemic itself. There’s really only a chapter or two that goes into that. It’s mainly about the scientists trying to figure out what exact type of flu it was. Interesting, but not as interesting as it could have been. ( )
  Anniik | Nov 26, 2022 |
Flu by Gina Kolata (3 stars)
Not quite what I was expecting. Although the book does contain some interesting information about the search for the virus that caused the 1918 flu epidemic, it falls rather short on answering any burning questions about it. The book contains a lot of ancillary information, like listings of education degrees, names of scientists who attended conferences and strong unflattering opinions about an expedition to Norway to retrieve the virus (so it can possibly be studied), from burials of flu victims in arctic permafrost. It seems like the author was just trying to inflate word count without much of a real science mystery. A mediocre attempt. Blah. ( )
  kaida46 | May 27, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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This is a detective story. Here was a mass murder that was around 80 years ago and who's never been brought to justice. And what we're trying to do is find the murderer.
— Jeffrey Taubenberger, molecular pathologist
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For my parents
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If anyone should have known about the 1918 flu, it was I.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Veteran journalist Gina Kolata's Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It presents a fascinating look at true story of the world's deadliest disease.

In 1918, the Great Flu Epidemic felled the young and healthy virtually overnight. An estimated forty million people died as the epidemic raged. Children were left orphaned and families were devastated. As many American soldiers were killed by the 1918 flu as were killed in battle during World War I. And no area of the globe was safe. Eskimos living in remote outposts in the frozen tundra were sickened and killed by the flu in such numbers that entire villages were wiped out.
Scientists have recently rediscovered shards of the flu virus frozen in Alaska and preserved in scraps of tissue in a government warehouse. Gina Kolata, an acclaimed reporter for The New York Times, unravels the mystery of this lethal virus with the high drama of a great adventure story. Delving into the history of the flu and previous epidemics, detailing the science and the latest understanding of this mortal disease, Kolata addresses the prospects for a great epidemic recurring, and, most important, what can be done to prevent it.

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