Livia's Reviews > Pandemics: A Very Short Introduction

Pandemics by Christian W. McMillen
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it was ok
bookshelves: very-short-introductions, epidemiology

Ok, I consider knowledge of the history of disease to be VERY important to combating the dangerous rise in vaccine hesitancy. For this reason I struggled with how to rate this.

I've previously read Epidemics and Pandemics: Their Impacts on Human History which is much longer and covers pandemics and epidemics (the same as in here and more) in chronological order rather than by disease, and Viruses: A Very Short Introduction which includes discussions of some of the pandemic diseases caused by viruses.

I do think that any historian writing about disease should really only write WITH an epidemiologist (not sure if that has happened, so I'm reading what I find) to guide the accuracy, and I think any discussion of disease really needs to include a scientific explanation of the pathology, prevention, and cures by an epidemiologist. This book reinforced that opinion.

I was enjoying this in the beginning. The impact of smallpox in North America makes this worth reading alone, (Epidemics and Pandemics left that out, irresponsibly and for biologically implausible/ahistorical reasoning).

However, once I got the chapter on Cholera, I found the author's tone to be increasingly unprofessional, arrogant, judgmental, etc. He seemed to think himself the moral authority with his ivory tower career and 20/20 hindsight, judging medical professionals, world leaders, and what felt like everyone else by the epilogue. He also has an irresponsibly written section implying deliberate spread of HIV in Africa in the 1950's and 60's (surely not his intent since he had literally just written that the disease AIDs was not even recognized until 1980's and HIV discovered even more recently) which can't be true because of the timeline of the discovery of the disease and then the virus.

I would recommend this to someone seriously seeking to learn about epidemiology and pandemics who has a good grasp of disease, vaccination, etc. If not for the author's awful tone, I would rate in a 4, if it had the important disease information that I mentioned about, I would give a five.

I would keep this away from the average person, especially a vaccine hesitant person, I feel that both his tone and the lack of the explanation of disease, cures, and prevention would tend to increase their hesitancy.
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Reading Progress

June 15, 2019 – Started Reading
June 19, 2019 – Shelved
June 19, 2019 – Shelved as: very-short-introductions
June 19, 2019 – Shelved as: epidemiology
June 19, 2019 – Finished Reading

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