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Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright
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“When we are electing government officials, it is not stupid to ask yourself, “If a plague broke out, do I think this person could navigate the country through those times, on a spiritual level, but also on a pragmatic one? Would they be able to calmly solve one problem, and then another one, and then the next one? Or would bodies pile up in the streets?”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Persecuting religious minorities is always ill-advised, every single time it occurs in history. I have never in my research found an instance where a historian says, “Wow, we were on the right side of history for torturing Group X back then.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“I realize that “Do No Harm” is the first rule of medicine, but “Don’t apply human shit to an open wound” seems like a good second one.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Pretending any historical age before proper indoor plumbing was a glorious epoch is a ludicrous delusion.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Parents refusing to vaccinate their children are doing something akin to allowing their kids to run about in traffic because they are irrationally afraid of sidewalks or they believe being struck by an oncoming car might be good in the long run.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Whenever someone begins pompously complaining that civilization is on a downhill slide, because people participate in harmless behaviors like taking selfies or watching reality television, a good response is to stare at them and respond, “You know, we used to burn people for being witches. That’s what people used to do in their spare time.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“(Fun fact: you can’t kill someone by finely grinding up glass and mixing it in their food. Either they’d be able to detect it, or it would be too finely ground to kill them. I’m too smart for you, potential murderers who are after my history-book-writing fortune.)”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Ask the Aztecs and the Incas whether or not they would have liked to have access to vaccines. Oh, wait, you can't. They're dead. Vaccination is one of the best things that has happened to civilization. Empires toppled like sandcastles in the wake of diseases we do not give a second thought to today. If taking a moment to elaborate on that point will make this book unpopular with a large group of antivaxxers, that’s okay. This feels like a good hill to die on. It’s surely a better one than the Incas got.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“To be clear, the Roman Empire didn’t end because everybody was having sex. No civilization was ever toppled by “too much sexy time”—except for Bavaria in 1848, but that is an unrelated (if delightful) story.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“I know that I am setting low standards for human behavior here, but it is astonishing that the townspeople agreed they should try to help her rather than burn her as a witch.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Diseases don’t ruin lives just because they rot off noses. They destroy people if the rest of society isolates them and treats them as undeserving of help and respect.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Part of the bias against frogs might be because they were associated with this cure. The “exploding frog cure” was almost certainly not its technical name. It’s definitely the only way I’ll ever refer to it, though.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“This may be the most insane, ineffective cure in the world, but if you have the opportunity to travel back in time, please go see it performed, even though visiting the fourteenth century is dumb, so dumb, just so dumb.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Well, Zimbabwe now has a higher immunization rate for one-year-olds against measles (around 95 percent) than the United States does. So do 112 other countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 37 We are down to a 91 percent vaccination rate for measles, which, according to the WHO, makes us much more vulnerable to outbreaks.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Refusing to vaccinate puts at risk not just your children but the people in our communities who most require our protection. This is a substantial downside for people deciding to protect their kids via star signs and “good vibes” instead of medicine.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Feel free to start using Walter Jackson Freeman II as an insult directed toward people you hate. Almost no one will get the reference, but if I am in the room we’ll high-five and it will be awesome.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“If you were a peasant and someone said, “If you live in a sewer, the bubonic plague won’t kill you,” your reaction likely wouldn’t be, “I am curious to hear the science behind that.” Your response would be, “Point me to the nearest sewer.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“If you have to choose between living in an isolated, uncaring community with plentiful penicillin or a very warm and loving world without drugs, team up with the guys with penicillin. It’s a lot easier to make people nicer than it is to develop medicine.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“One of my great wishes is that people of the present will see those of the past as friendly (or irritating) acquaintances they can look to for advice. It’s easy to forget that people from the past weren’t the two-dimensional black-and-white photos or line drawings you might encounter in some dry textbooks. They weren’t just gray-faced guys in top hats. They were living, breathing, joking, burping people, who could be happy or sad, funny or boring, cool or the lamest people you ever met in your life. They had no idea they were living in the past. They all thought they were living in the present. Accordingly, like any person, past or present, could be, some of them were smart and kind and geniuses about medicine and also completely dull on a personal level. (I’m trying to come to terms with loving John Snow’s deductive brilliance and being absolutely certain I would never want to spend more than ten minutes talking to him.)”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“virus, a single newspaper headline in Philadelphia saying “Don’t Go to Any Parades; for the Love of God Cancel Your Stupid Parade” could have saved hundreds of lives. It would have done a lot more than those telling people, “Don’t Get Scared!” Telling people that things are fine is not the same as making them fine. This failure is in the past. Journalists and editors had their reasons. Risking jail time is no joke. But learning from this breakdown in truth-telling is important because the fourth estate can’t fail again. We are fortunate today to have organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization that track how diseases are progressing and report these findings. In the event of an outbreak similar to the Spanish flu, they will be wonderful resources. I hope we’ll be similarly lucky to have journalists who will be able to share necessary information with the public. The public is at its strongest when it is well informed. Despite Lippmann’s claims to the contrary, we are smart, and we are good, and we are always stronger when we work together. If there is a next time, it would be very much to our benefit to remember that.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“If you believe the many biographies of great men and women, none of them ever had syphilis. Which would be a remarkable stroke of luck on their part. Since its discovery in Barcelona in 1493—supposedly brought back from the New World—the sexually transmitted disease just mowed down Europeans. Its effects were so devastating that some regard it as an equal trade for the measles and the smallpox Europeans exported to the Americas.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Here are some things that diseases don’t make people:
• Cool
• Poetic
• Sexy
• Classy
• Genius
Here is one thing they do make people:
• Dead”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“It is telling that, historically, quarantines extended primarily to those who had less wealth, power, and social clout.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“But the bubonic plague never went away entirely. It still exists today. The World Health Organization reports that in 2013 there were 783 cases worldwide; 126 people died.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“This might be a good time to mention that if you learn about an airborne virus that seems to be killing otherwise healthy young people in your area from a reputable medical journal, you are reading very bad news.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Polio was effectively eliminated throughout the world. And then people just … kind of forgot all about polio. This seems to be the human response to any disease. People forget diseases ever existed the minute they are no longer being affected by them. Maybe that’s understandable. Maybe if we all thought about all the potential diseases the world is teeming with, and the extent to which we are, every day, dancing on the edge of a volcano, the world would seem too terrifying to walk around in at all. Or we’d just vaccinate our kids.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Full disclosure: I would have patented that vaccine and not felt guilty about it for a second. I suspect I would have used the money to do dumb stuff I thought was awesome, like start an F. Scott Fitzgerald theme park. I assume everyone else would also do that. Why doesn’t a theme park devoted to books exist? It would be so much fun.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“Although Galen was a great physician, he was not a terribly courageous man. Galen was a self-promotor above anything else. According to McLynn, he consistently claimed to be a self-made man, casually downplaying the fact that he can from an extremely wealthy family and had inherited numerous estates as well as a stellar list of contacts. He employed underhanded tactics to win debates, and he constantly aggrandized his own achievements. Personality-wise, you could think of him as the Donald Trump of Ancient Rome.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. —MARCUS AURELIUS”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
“And although better coverage of the outbreak’s evolution in the press couldn’t have stopped the influenza virus, a single newspaper headline in Philadelphia saying “Don’t Go to Any Parades; for the Love of God Cancel Your Stupid Parade” could have saved hundreds of lives. It would have done a lot more than those telling people, “Don’t Get Scared!” Telling people that things are fine is not the same as making them fine. This failure is in the past. Journalists and editors had their reasons. Risking jail time is no joke. But learning from this breakdown in truth-telling is important because the fourth estate can’t fail again. We are fortunate today to have organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization that track how diseases are progressing and report these findings. In the event of an outbreak similar to the Spanish flu, they will be wonderful resources. I hope we’ll be similarly lucky to have journalists who will be able to share necessary information with the public. The public is at its strongest when it is well informed. Despite Lippmann’s claims to the contrary, we are smart, and we are good, and we are always stronger when we work together. If there is a next time, it would be very much to our benefit to remember that.”
Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

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