When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America and the Fears They Have Unleashed
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America and the Fears They Have Unleashed

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  98 ratings  ·  17 reviews
The struggle against deadly microbes is endless. Diseases that have plagued human beings since ancient times still exist, new maladies like SARS make their way into the headlines, we are faced with vaccine shortages, and the threat of germ warfare has reemerged as a worldwide threat.

In this riveting account, medical historian Howard Markel takes an eye-opening look at the...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 10th 2005 by Vintage (first published May 11th 2004)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about When Germs Travel, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about When Germs Travel

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 193)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
K. Bird
I opened up When Germs Travel thinking I'd get a more general description about disease, vectors, bacteria, and how human culture influences transmission.

(Obviously I didn't read the subtitle)

What I got was even more interesting, and heart-breaking.

Markel tells the stories of Tuberculosis, Bubonic Plague, Trachoma, Typhus, AIDS and Cholera all through the lens of the immigrant experience.

The two stories that really hit me were the story of Haitians with AIDS caught behind barbed wire at Guantana...more
Celina
When Germs Travel is a wonderful journey into medical anthropology, documenting six major epidemics that have struck the United States as a result of immigration: tuberculosis, trachoma, typhus, bubonic plague, cholera, and AIDS. Markel looks compassionately upon how abysmal homeland conditions and travel conditions exacerbated these epidemics, as well as how the American reaction to the epidemics resulted in policy changes throughout the last century.

It's a fascinating read, and it leaves the...more
TBML
With current events what they are, it is interesting to read how the world reacted to historical outbreaks of disease. It certainly gives one perspective.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on the typhus "outbreak" in my hometown of El Paso, Texas around the turn of the 20th century. The majority of deaths that can be laid at the feet of this local outbreak had nothing to do with the disease itself but the fact that people crossing the border into the US from Mexico had a disturbing habit of bursti...more
Kate
When Germs Travel takes a look at 6 epidemics: bubonic plague, typhus, trachoma, HIV, tuberculosis and cholera that arose in the US in the past century or so. If you read a lot of medical history, much of the information will be old news. What may not be, however, is Markel's analysis of the role that immigrants have played in bringing illness across national boundaries, and more importantly, how much undeserved blame is laid at their feet when epidemics do strike. Markel is a fine writer; he is...more
Margaret von Fizzlewick
I especially enjoyed the chapter on the typhus "outbreak" in my hometown of El Paso, Texas around the turn of the 20th century. The majority of deaths that can be laid at the feet of this local outbreak had nothing to do with the disease itself but the fact that people crossing the border into the US from Mexico had a disturbing habit of bursting into flames when doused with kerosene, which border officials believed would kill the disease. And I suppose it did...in a way. A bit drastic, though.
Sal
Well-written and incredibly insightful as to the threat (and often misplaced blame) of world epidemics. Entirely recommended.
Jb
Here are six fascinating stories of invasive diseases (to U.S. borders, that is) and how authorities endeavored to cope: TB, plague, trachoma, typhus, AIDS, cholera. Most engaging is the author’s personal account of involvement with a cholera scare in Detroit in the late 1990s. Though diseases described are now largely contained in the U.S., many (even those not of the six) remain worldwide dilemmas never to be completely conquered.
Pancha
This book feels more like an examination of the attitudes America holds and has held towards immigrants and disease than the diseases themselves, although there is a lot of information on the diseases. While each chapter acknowledges the public health issues of the various diseases, they also focus on how racism, ignorance, and a lack of compassion effect the immigrant communities blamed as carries for the diseases.
Diane Henry
Via Rene Najera
Marie
I read this late at night, then didn't sleep worrying how to avoid getting TB. Not as worried about bubonic plague, typhus or cholera . . . but the TB chapter kept me awake! I will no longer shake hands with anyone, wash my hands obsessively, stay away from anyone with a cough. In fact, I think I'll never leave my home. That's the answer.
Cecily
Mar 23, 2008 Cecily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cecily by: Ryan
This was really interesting as it combined immigration and medical anthropology. Of course every time I read about diseases I start worrying about every heart flutter, dry eye, itchy leg, etc.

The author does a great job of informing and providing the stories that make medical anthropology interesting. His writing style is clear.
Mark
Broken into several readable chapters, each with their own study of a disease, location, and ethnic group different from each other, yet with the common theme of nationalism against the 'other' the author's final chapter is a humble, semi humorous warning of the dangers of 'knowing too much' (or thinking you do anyway).
Sarah
A very readable series of vignettes about different epidemics in America. With a view to the historical, it gives a better understanding of the present and the future of contagious disease in the US.

Colleen
a good warning against the complacency americans can have re. infectious disease.Also an overview of how disease has influenced prejudice and impacted immigration in us history. Very interesting
Chole Allyson
This was a great book. I was able to see a disease progress through the eyes of an immigrant. I followed their story and felt as though I were a part of it.
winona
It's not as nail-biting as the title would have you believe. Interesting stuff, particularly the bits on disease etiology and progression, albeit kinda dry.
Kelly
Man am I a sucker for a microhistory; chalk it up to the insatiable consumption of knowledge.
Lisa H.
Lisa H. marked it as to-read
Jul 31, 2014
Tanja
Tanja marked it as to-read
Jun 29, 2014
Katie Parker
Katie Parker marked it as to-read
May 27, 2014
April
April added it
Jun 22, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., is the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine, professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, professor of psychiatry, and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. His books include the award- winning Quarantine! and When Germs Travel. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The New Engla...more
More about Howard Markel...
An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine Quarantine!: East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892 Practical Pediatrician: The A to Z Guide to Your Child's Health, Behavior, and Safety The H.L. Mencken Baby Book The Portable Pediatrician (The Secrets Series)

Share This Book