Reading Guides

Coronavirus – Epidemics from History Set it in Context – A Reading Guide

Coronavirus history reading guide

With the non-stop stream of news about the coronavirus and its effects around the globe, it is helpful for us to pause and set it in the context of other historical epidemics  …

While we should take all the precautionary measures (handwashing!) in the face of the coronavirus, reading about other historical epidemics can 1) adjust our perspective, realizing that our situation could be much, much worse and 2) make us grateful for (and more attentive to) the medical knowledge and technology that has been developed in the wake of these historical epidemics.

Here are a few book recommendations that tell the history of some of the worst epidemics that the world has known….



Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come

Richard Preston

The 2013–2014 Ebola epidemic was the deadliest ever—but the outbreaks continue. Now comes a gripping account of the doctors and scientists fighting to protect us, an urgent wake-up call about the future of emerging viruses—from the #1 bestselling author of The Hot Zone, now a National Geographic original miniseries.

This time, Ebola started with a two-year-old child who likely had contact with a wild creature and whose entire family quickly fell ill and died. The ensuing global drama activated health professionals in North America, Europe, and Africa in a desperate race against time to contain the viral wildfire. By the end—as the virus mutated into its deadliest form, and spread farther and faster than ever before—30,000 people would be infected, and the dead would be spread across eight countries on three continents.

In this taut and suspenseful medical drama, Richard Preston deeply chronicles the outbreak, in which we saw for the first time the specter of Ebola jumping continents, crossing the Atlantic, and infecting people in America. Rich in characters and conflict—physical, emotional, and ethical—Crisis in the Red Zone is an immersion in one of the great public health calamities of our time.

Preston writes of doctors and nurses in the field putting their own lives on the line, of government bureaucrats and NGO administrators moving, often fitfully, to try to contain the outbreak, and of pharmaceutical companies racing to develop drugs to combat the virus. He also explores the charged ethical dilemma over who should and did receive the rare doses of an experimental treatment when they became available at the peak of the disaster.

Crisis in the Red Zone makes clear that the outbreak of 2013–2014 is a harbinger of further, more severe outbreaks, and of emerging viruses heretofore unimagined—in any country, on any continent. In our ever more interconnected world, with roads and towns cut deep into the jungles of equatorial Africa, viruses both familiar and undiscovered are being unleashed into more densely populated areas than ever before.

The more we discover about the virosphere, the more we realize its deadly potential. Crisis in the Red Zone is an exquisitely timely book, a stark warning of viral outbreaks to come.



 
 

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IMAGE CREDIT: Women wearing surgical masks during the influenza epidemic, Brisbane, 1919 (Public Domain via Wikipedia)





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