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Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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On the heels of World War I, another atrocity emerged to take millions more lives: flu. Overshadowed by that worldwide viral menace was an equally—indeed, Crosby believes, an even more—frightening killer, encephalitis lethargica (EL). If the name rings no bell, perhaps that isn’t surprising, since the malady claimed “only” a million lives, though it left at least that many more permanently disabled, before dropping off epidemiologists’ maps around 1927. The illness’ popular moniker, sleeping sickness, is more familiar, to the point of seeming innocuous. But the disease was and is anything but. No one has ever been able to articulate its etiology. Just because it flared up during a flu pandemic doesn’t mean it is linked to flu by either causation or correlation. Yet the concurrence cannot be discounted. What’s more, the disease is unpredictable, having re-emerged a couple times since the 1920s. Crosby and others fear EL may return simultaneously with another worldwide outbreak of flu. Medical science is, they insist, no better prepared for it than it was 90 years ago. --Donna Chavez
When I first encountered the patients whom I later wrote about in Awakenings -- patients who had all had the epidemic sleeping sickness, encephalitis lethargica, forty or more years before, I could find no good general account of the epidemic which had devastated their lives and killed thousands, perhaps millions, of others. Molly Crosby has provided a brilliant and deeply moving account of the fearful years between 1915 and 1927, when this mysterious, worldwide pandemic struck, giving us vivid, intensely human portraits of seven individuals caught up in this epidemic, and the physicians who did their best to understand and help them. In the end, Asleep reminds us that this strange, often terrible disease is not extinct, only quiescent. It may well strike again in our lifetimes. --Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings
The engaging story of the outbreak of a bizarre disease.... Crosby is a fine storyteller, peppering her case studies with facts about the history of neurology and details about 1910s New York. She also provides fully realized portraits of not only her case studies' patients, but also the brilliant doctors who treated them.... --Kirkus Reviews
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