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The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear


The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear Cover

ISBN13: 9781439158647
ISBN10: 1439158649
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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“With rationality and science under siege these days, Seth Mnookin has produced a riveting and important chronicle of one life-and-death realm in which passionate, panicky belief has dangerously trumped reasonand put millions of children at risk.”

Kurt Andersen, Host, "Studio 360" and author of Heyday and Reset“Seth Mnookin has given us a non-fiction story worthy of Michael Crichtonan absorbing, disturbing and scrupulously researched account of a contagion of human unreason run wild. This time the hysteria was over autism; the next panic virus could be even more dangerous.”

Jonathan Mahler, author of The Challenge and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning“An accomplished journalist, Seth Mnookin takes an objective look at both sides of the vaccine/autism controversy and lands squarely on the side of science. With humor and wit, The Panic Virus examines the often bizarre events that led some families to become distrustful of science and erroneously conclude that vaccines might cause autism. This book will leave you scratching your head in pure amazement that this issue could get so out of hand when the science is so clear.”

Alison Singer, President, Autism Science Foundation

“In plain language, Seth Mnookin provides an excellent narrative and evaluation that helps clarify for readers how and why vaccine controversies have arisen over the years as well as sensible ways for readers to understand the science that supports vaccine usage. Vaccines are the most effective public health measure since clean water.”

Judith Palfrey, MD, FAAP, professor of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and author of Child Health in America“Seth Mnookin understood there was something more to the cruelly misled and dangerously misleading vaccines-cause-autism movement than just an unhappy group of parents with a need to blame someone. He saw the connection between this deathless conspiracy theory and the proliferating irrationality of a society that has supersized its information diet while starving its capacity to think straight. For that reason alonenot to mention the deft, often charming characterizations woven into its skillful and fascinating narrativethis is an important, powerful, and bracing book.”

Arthur Allen, author of Vaccine and Ripe“This important book should be read by anyone who has a child, cares about public health, or is interested in the state of discourse in 21st-century America. It is a terrific and terrifying call to action.”

Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide"There have been hundreds of recent outbreaks of ailments like whooping cough and measles that we thought would be eradicated by nowand might have been, if not for the anti-vaccine obfuscation. Bravo Seth Mnookin for digging for the truth and telling eloquent stories of what happens when lies, half-truths and self-interest collide with fear."

Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and author of Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health

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Ashley Bowen-Murphy, March 1, 2012 (view all comments by Ashley Bowen-Murphy)
This book offers a great overview of how 1 researcher with questionable motives and qualifications but great PR skills can change the course of public health. Mnookin's prose is easy to read for those who do not have a background in medicine or public health while still using the vocabulary of vaccine science, autism specialists, and CDC representatives. His list of citations and footnotes are extensive and make his central claims nearly impossible to dispute.

"The Panic Virus" is especially critical of the media and non-experts who make for good TV. I worried that Mnookin would assign all the blame to the internet. Happily, his argument is more nuanced and acknowledges the frustration and isolation that parents of special needs children often feel. He is also willing to criticize the medical profession for not responding to the emotional needs of these parents.

I wish he'd spent a bit more time on how important "herd immunity" is and how theUSis seeing outbreaks of diseases once thought more or less extinct. That. Said, this is a story about HOW we got to this point-- not what will happen if the trend not to vaccinate continues. It's a cautionary tale for us all-- with or without children.
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Product Details

America's Changing Relationship with Immunization
Mnookin, Seth
Conis, Elena
University Of Chicago Press
Public Health
Public Policy - General
Health and Medicine-History of Medicine
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Child Care and Parenting » Children's Health
Health and Self-Help » Child Psychology » Autism
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Politics of Health Care
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Autism
History and Social Science » Politics » General
Reference » Science Reference » Philosophy of Science

The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear Used Hardcover
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$18.95 In Stock
Product details 344 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9781439158647 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this searching exposé, the recent hysteria over childhood vaccinations and their alleged link to autism be-comes a cautionary tale of bad science amplified by media sensationalism. Journalist Mnookin (Hard News) treats the belief that autism is caused by common vaccines as an epidemic, tracing its origin to a young British doctor's dubious research into Crohn's disease and measles in the early 1990s. This 'panic virus' spread through online communities of parents desperate for answers; fueled by mainstream media, it has created a growing reluctance on the part of parents to vaccinate their children, which, Mnookin warns, results in an increased rate of children dying from preventable infectious diseases. Crucial to this virus's spread was the unwillingness of reporters to parse complex health statistics and their embrace of a populist story line about feisty 'Mercury Moms' challenging a corrupt and covert medical establishment. Mnookin presents a thorough and lucid debunking of the claims of a link between vaccines and autism and the charlatanism and profiteering of those who publicize it. The result is a hard-hitting contribution to the debate and a troubling portrait of a public sphere that elevates intuition and emotion above reason and evidence. (Jan. 11)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review A Day" by , "The news in 1998 was as startling as the jab of a needle: Dr. Andrew Wakefield, in new study in the influential medical journal The Lancet, had made a connection between MMR vaccination and the onset of autism.

'My concerns,' he announced dramatically at a London press conference, 'are that one more case of this is too many.'

There was something to be concerned about, all right. Recently, the British Medical Journal found that Wakefield, who had undisclosed financial interests in discrediting the MMR vaccine, had forged patient records to get his results." (Read the entire Oregonian review)
"Synopsis" by , Mnookin presents a searing account of how vaccine opponents have used the media to spread their message of panic, despite no scientific evidence to support their fears.
"Synopsis" by ,
Vaccine Nation tells the recent history of how and why vaccines became such a prized but polemical part of American health care, politics, and culture. In the sixties, American children began to receive more vaccines than any previous generation, and laws requiring their immunization against a litany of diseases became common. In the decades that followed, vaccination rates soared, preventable infections plummeted, and popular acceptance of vaccines remained strong—even as an increasingly vocal cross-section of Americans questioned the safety and necessity of vaccines and the wisdom of related policies. Vaccine Nation examines the origins of some of todays most salient sources of vaccine skepticism. It describes how and why presidents from JFK to Clinton championed childhood vaccination from the White House. And it reveals that new vaccines fundamentally changed the ways health experts and lay Americans perceived the diseases they were designed to prevent. Chapters in the book examine how and why we vaccinate against specific infections—including measles, mumps, hepatitis B, and HPV—and how social movements of the late twentieth century posed profound, but previously overlooked, implications for how Americans today have come to think about vaccination and vaccines.


In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist with a history of self-promotion, published a paper with a shocking allegation: the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. The media seized hold of the story and, in the process, helped to launch one of the most devastating health scares ever. In the years to come Wakefield would be revealed as a profiteer in league with class-action lawyers, and he would eventually lose his medical license. Meanwhile one study after another failed to find any link between childhood vaccines and autism.

Yet the myth that vaccines somehow cause developmental disorders lives on. Despite the lack of corroborating evidence, it has been popularized by media personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and Jenny McCarthy and legitimized by journalists who claim that they are just being fair to “both sides” of an issue about which there is little debate. Meanwhile millions of dollars have been diverted from potential breakthroughs in autism research, families have spent their savings on ineffective “miracle cures,” and declining vaccination rates have led to outbreaks of deadly illnesses like Hib, measles, and whooping cough. Most tragic of all is the increasing number of children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In The Panic Virus Seth Mnookin draws on interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists to tackle a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is? The fascinating answer helps explain everything from the persistence of conspiracy theories about 9/11 to the appeal of talk-show hosts who demand that President Obama “prove” he was born in America.

The Panic Virus is a riveting and sometimes heart-breaking medical detective story that explores the limits of rational thought. It is the ultimate cautionary tale for our time.

"Synopsis" by , A searing account of how vaccine opponents have used the media to spread their message of panic, despite no scientific evidence to support them.
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