- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 28, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393609146
- ISBN-13: 978-0393609141
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,447,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Zika: The Emerging Epidemic 1st Edition
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“I find much to applaud in Mr. McNeil’s Zika: The Emerging Epidemic. Though slim…Zika is dense with information…. In a no-nonsense, declarative writing style, Mr. McNeil tells the history of humanity’s relationship with the Zika virus.”
- Laurie Garrett, The New York Times
“Tight and highly informative.”
- Sally Satel, The Washington Post
“Lucid, even prescient....Years from now, wherever we stand in the struggle, many of us will still be reading and sharing McNeil’s real-time account of Zika’s stunning assault on an unprepared planet. Yes, the book is really that good.”
- Dr. Claire Panosian Dunavan, American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
“A succinct summary of Zika to date....from a reliable source.”
- Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Donald G. McNeil Jr. is a science reporter covering plagues and pestilences for The New York Times, where he began work as a copy boy in 1976. He is a former Africa correspondent and has reported from fifty-five countries.
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Any book about a disease has a certain things it must do, like explain the key experiments leading to its discovery, or the clinical effects on patients—and McNeil does this faithfully. But where this book excels is in telling how the majordomos of public health at the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, possessing magisterial arrogance and often ignorance, connive to shape what the public thinks about diseases. As a result, when these organizations issue public health advice for the public, it can be to serve particular agenda or ideology that is totally at odds with straightforward health protection. They do this even if science and ethics point to different advice entirely.
In Chapter 11 of the book, which is the best, McNeil explains how after Zika virus was proved to cause brain damage and deaths in fetuses, WHO and CDC dissembled to avoid saying that women should consider delaying pregnancy while the epidemic was on a tear. He unpacks the extreme irony where CDC advised pregnant American women to skip going to Puerto Rico because of the danger of birth defects, but opposed telling Puerto Rican women to delay pregnancy while the epidemic remained underway, not for any scientific reason but because a narrow-minded martinet of a CDC gynaecologist ideologically resented interfering with women's freedom of choice.
Not only was CDC's hypocrisy hideously racist—female American tourists being given the best and safest public health advice, while brown Puerto Rican inhabitants were told something else entirely—but it surely led and is continuing to lead to some number of dead or brain damaged Puerto Rican children. WHO made the same mistake, but on an even larger, global level, again because of freedom of choice. On the contrary, in their propagandizing paternalism, both CDC and WHO have forgotten what freedom of choice with "informed consent" actually means: that patients must be apprised of absolutely ALL the options so that they can decide freely. By avoiding to tell women that the surest, strongest way to avoid a brain damaged baby was to delay pregnancy until the Zika outbreak passed, CDC and WHO actually robbed them of free, informed choice—which is shockingly unethical.
Doubtless McNeil's telling will offend some. Who cares: truth is often offensive when it is important. It's only too telling that another reviewer on Amazon, who froths at the mouth about McNeil's account, never identifies a single page, paragraph or sentence of his book that is erroneous or incorrect. It therefore has to be taken as bang-on accurate, albeit disturbingly so. For that alone, this book reminds me of other classics told from the coal face of disease, such as Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On, and it worth reading so that you are properly skeptical of CDC or WHO confidence tricks in the future.