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House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox
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House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  173 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
A story of courage and risk-taking, House on Fire tells how smallpox, a disease that killed, blinded, and scarred millions over centuries of human history, was completely eradicated in a spectacular triumph of medicine and public health. Part autobiography, part mystery, the story is told by a man who was one of the architects of a radical vaccination scheme that became a ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published June 6th 2011 by University of California Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Sep 26, 2012 Gwenyth rated it really liked it
Shelves: global-health
This is a tricky book for me to review, as I'm unashamedly biased, but I'm going to try anyway.

When you think about the vast volume of literature written about any major war, it's somewhat remarkable that smallpox eradication - a campaign to end an illness that killed half a billion people in the last century - hasn't received more attention. The other day I was on a bus with some med students and one actually asked, "what was that disease we eradicated? Was it polio?" (Fail, future doctor! Fai
Nov 12, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith, medical
after reading schlosser's book about the atomic bomb i needed something uplifting. a book about smallpox.

read the subtitle "the fight to eradicate smallpox". the goodguys, author william h. foege among them, WIN the fight. going into this book we know smallpox lost, that's a good book to read.

the postscript;

"Over the years, on every return to India, I have searched the faces of people on the street, looking for pockmarks. Soon I could find no pockmarked face under the age ten, then twenty, and
Aug 02, 2012 Meepspeeps rated it really liked it
This is part documentary, part autobiography of the amazingly successful worldwide work to eradicate smallpox. Call me a geek, but I found the statistics climactic and the developing world experiences funny or sobering, depending on the story. It reinforces my belief that we peeps can accomplish almost ANYTHING if we have the political will.
Piper Hale
Dr. Foege looms large in my life (and not in the literal sense, as his unusual height would suggest) as the founder of the organization I work for, so, disclaimer, that may have influenced my experience reading House on Fire. It is, however, an extraordinary book documenting the years of grueling work that finally led to the worldwide eradication of smallpox. In relating the details of the smallpox effort's challenges and successes, Dr. Foege highlights the importance in disease elimination effo ...more
Meagan Hawes
This was one of the most informative and inspiring history of medicine reads I've encountered! My favorite book of the year so far.
Read this for a paper I was writing for a vaccines development class. I have bad memories of that class which may color my review, so take this review with a grain of salt lol. Gives some interesting insight into the logistics needed to solve the biggest public health campaign ever conducted (eradicating a disease from the earth). Unfortunately, while the issue itself is fascinating, Foege's writing is neither compelling nor emotionally engaging. One chapter is just an extended acknowledgments l ...more
Oct 17, 2014 Sophia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since the eradication of smallpox ranks as one of the most successful efforts in public health, or human endeavor in general, the story of how it happened already draws interest. House on Fire: the fight to eradicate smallpox is William Foege's attempt to tell this tale, through his experience in Africa and India. I found the beginning, as he described how eradication was first accepted as a feasible goal, to be more interesting than the foregone conclusion. The story was told in a very linear f ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Gwen rated it really liked it
Summer reading theme: smallpox, cont.
Although the element of surprise may be missing from this book (smallpox is eradicated), that in no way diminishes this excellent book. If anything, it enhances it. As Foege described smallpox, from its smell to appearance to physical impact on a person, and documented its widespread grip on continents and countries, one wonders how it could ever actually disappear. A great system of surveillance (to count cases) and subsequently contain them is almost disast
Sep 08, 2014 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
I found this interesting, if not fast paced. It is indeed a book about a war, fought viciously by both sides, with numerous problems and pitfalls. While Foege is obviously passionate about smallpox and his experience (and rightly so), the book is so heavily scientifically based and loaded with facts and numbers, that the people behind the scenes got lost for me. That's a minor complaint - I was reading this to learn about the methods and successes, not so much for personalities, but it may put o ...more
Aug 26, 2011 Nola rated it liked it
This book explains when and how smallpox was eradicated in Nigeria and in India, which are the 2 countries in which the author worked on the program. It is an interesting story of remarkably dedicated people that explains the science and the politics behind the campaign to eliminate smallpox. While it tells how horrible it is to have smallpox, the book’s emotional depth does not go beyond eliciting moderate engagement.
Anand Sinha
Jul 14, 2013 Anand Sinha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: global-health
An easy to read book that captures the personal story of the people who worked so hard to eradicate Smallpox. In hindsight Smallpox eradication seems simple and inevitable, but Bill Foege helps the reader understand the many challenges and near misses that may have lead to us still hiding from Smallpox. The book is inspirational for anyone working on Public Health. The message about the need to be Optimistic is an important one for weary development professionals.
Jun 08, 2013 Marianne rated it really liked it
This is a well written chronicle of the process by which smallpox was eradicated told by the epidemiologist who was at the center of the fight. His descriptions of the seemingly insurmountable challenges of defeating this ancient scourge in India makes for riveting reading. Even a reader unfamiliar with medicine or global health initiatives will find this fascinating and understandable.
Hannah Notess
Mar 06, 2015 Hannah Notess rated it really liked it
There used to be smallpox and there isn't anymore. That is not an accident and the tremendous amount of coordination and planning required to make this happen was awe inspiring to read about. We could do this with measles too, you guys.
Anita Williams
May 07, 2013 Anita Williams rated it really liked it
Great book, however it assumes a lot of prior knowledge so if you don't know much about infectious disease epidemiology, have google open and ready.
May 24, 2011 Christopher rated it really liked it
Great read. Smallpox eradication was not inevitable. Best global health success story I know of.
Jul 10, 2014 Rebekah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Amazing and inspirational story, well told.
David Meyers
Jul 07, 2012 David Meyers rated it it was amazing
For anyone interested in public health, a must read.
Jul 29, 2016 Jamie rated it really liked it
A humble and moving account of the fight and eradication of smallpox, pressing forward with an innovative surveillance and containment approach despite many setbacks and much skepticism.
Jan 15, 2015 Caroline rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating read! I knew nothing about the eradication process, and found the process they went through so interesting. A great read, and a book I would read again!
Jan 12, 2012 !Tæmbuŝu marked it as to-read
Shelves: science
Jun 10, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
I really liked Foege's earnest and sincere account of his role in the global effort to eradicate polio, one of the most ambitious medical accomplishments ever.
Aug 18, 2011 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
As seen in the New York Times .
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May 26, 2012
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Feb 20, 2012
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