The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear Hardcover – Jan 11 2011
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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 reason—and put millions of children at risk.” (Kurt Andersen, Host, "Studio 360")
“Seth Mnookin has given us a non-fiction story worthy of Michael Crichton—an 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 alone—not to mention the deft, often charming characterizations woven into its skillful and fascinating narrative—this is an important, powerful, and bracing book.” (Arthur Allen, author of Vaccine and Ripe)
"There have been hundreds of recent outbreaks of ailments like whooping cough and measles that we thought would be eradicated by now—and 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)
"Mr. Mnookin's passionate defense of vaccination may be just what the public needs, in equal parts because of what it says and because of who is saying it. . . . Parents who want to play it safe, but are not altogether sure how, should turn with relief to this reasoned, logical and comprehensive analysis of the facts." (Abigail Zuger, M.D. The New York Times)
About the Author
Seth Mnookin is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former senior writer for Newsweek, where he covered media, politics, and popular culture. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, New York magazine, and many other publications. He is the author of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear; Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top and Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Although Mnookin is not a scientist (he is now the Co-director of MIT's science writing graduate program), his book is clearly well-researched: the immunology and its history are spot on, as are his explanations of the underlying principles of science (e.g. association of two variables does not necessarily imply causation). Mnookin also goes onto explain how pseudoscience and bad journalism can directly affect and/or harm the population as a whole. This in particular proves especially relevant in today's world. With new "scientific" studies emerging nearly every day, many of which seem contradictory, a good understanding of the scientific method is key to debunking many of them. Mnookin provides that understanding to his readers with this book.
Stylistically, the book is easy to follow and one does not require a scientific background to read it. Any individual fortunate enough to read The Panic Virus will gain a greater knowledge of vaccination and its history as well as a good foundation in the scientific and public health in general.
If you want to know the real story, and why kids should be vaccinated, read this!!!!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Panic Virus focuses primarily on the debate over vaccines, thimerosal, and autism, but it doesn't end there. Mnookin doesn't gloss over mistakes that were made by the CDC and other government bodies in overseeing the safety of multiple vaccines. Even as someone who has a lot of respect for the contributions of vaccines to public health, I was taken aback by some of the points he made regarding the lack of rigorous safety studies in some areas related to vaccines.
However, he also presents the science that has demonstrated as conclusively as possible that vaccines do not cause autism. Those looking for the ultimate proof of a negative will not find it here, because it cannot be done using science, as Mnookin points out. He also covers some of the psychological reasons for why people are so willing to believe in junk science, and discusses Andrew Wakefield's chicanery in detail. Finally, he gives a voice to families whose children have been harmed by the anti-vaccination movement.
In fairness, one or two of the more esoteric points about the science are a tiny bit off the mark. But this should not distract the reader from the brick wall of scientific evidence presented regarding the lack of an association between vaccines and autism. I am surprised that this book has not gotten more media coverage given the topic. It's well-researched, well-written, and about as fair as can be given the heated subject. It's simply appalling that the science of this controversial story does not get the press that the more sensational anti-vaccinators have received. Read it with an open mind.
I was wrong. This book places the current anti-vaccine/ anti-science plague spreading across America in a historical context in which I had never considered it. It was fascinating to read about the flawed polio trials, and how fear of vaccinations has been with us even though crude, ur-vaccinations were present in 8th Century India.
I don't want to give everything away about this book because Mr. Mnookin writes so wonderfully. To attempt to distill it into a few words here would be unfair. If you are interested in learning more about how and why people cling to anti-scientific beliefs, and how history keeps on repeating itself despite all of our advances, you absolutely must read this book.
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