The Great Influenza
1 journaler for this copy...
I was rather surprised to find that the epicenter for the epidemic was at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, which is maybe half-an-hour's drive from where I live; I've passed the signs for it many times without realizing the terrible toll that the epidemic took there.
The book covers the human cost as well as the ways in which then-cutting-edge research came into play. There's an examination of where and how the initial strain spread, the often-fascinating and diverse backgrounds of individuals who would be key players in the battle against it, and looks at the history of medical science in general, with an eye towards explaining why it was so difficult to find a cure for any particular 'flu virus.
The photographs and descriptions of the ways in which the epidemic hit population centers and affected popular culture and behavior are very daunting. In some cases people did not react quickly enough, allowing the virus to get a foothold; in others the treatment of anyone even suspected of being ill was prompt and sometimes horrifying. And some of the individuals who made what later proved to be bad choices paid the ultimate price...
There are nightmarish scenes where patients died so quickly that there weren't enough resources to handle the bodies - transport ships became "floating caskets", and in some communities there were houses full of dead or dying that nobody would go near. Sounds rather like the accounts of the Black Death in that respect. And it spread everywhere, it seems - from Greece to small villages in the Arctic, where entire villages died out.
There are heroes here in plenty, some of whom did not survive their attempts to aid the victims. Some worked on possible cures, others on ways to treat the symptoms and pull the victims through, still others on attempting to manage the panic and sustain the survivors.
When I first read the book, headlines about Ebola and other contagions were in the news, making me think that the history of this particular plague should be considered a valuable history lesson and cautionary tale. And then came COVID-19...
See also Flu by Gina Kolata.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
I went on the first post-COVID lobster-run along the southern Maine coast with a friend today, and after having an awesome lobster roll at Red's we stopped by this LFL. Hope someone enjoys the book!
[See other recent releases in ME here.]