Plague: A Story of Science, Rivalry, and the Scourge That Won't Go Away

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9780805075151: Plague: A Story of Science, Rivalry, and the Scourge That Won't Go Away
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“You thought the bubonic plague had gone the way of powdered wigs? Try again: It could happen anytime. Edward Marriott’s dramatic, gripping new book gives you yet another thing to worry about.” —New York

Plague. The very word carries an unholy resonance. No other disease can claim its apocalyptic power: it can lie dormant for centuries, only to resurface with nation-killing force. Here, with the high drama of an adventure tale, Edward Marriott unravels the story of this lethal disease: the historic battle to identify its source, the devastating effects of pandemics, and the prospects for new outbreaks. Marriott begins the trail in Hong Kong in the summer of 1894, when a plague diagnosis brought to the island two top scientists—Alexandre Yersin, a maverick Frenchman, and his Japanese rival, Shibasaburo Kitasato. Marriott interweaves the narrative of their fierce competition with vivid scenes of the scourge’s persistence: California in 1900; Surat, India, in 1994; and New York City sometime in the future.

A masterly account of medical and human history, Plague is at once an instructive warning and a chilling read.

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About the Author:

Edward Marriott is the author of Savage Shore (0-8050-5556-8) and The Lost Tribe (0-8050-6449-4), a New York Times Best Travel Book. A recipient of the Thomas Cook and Banff Awards, he lives in London, where he contributes regularly to the BBC, the Times, and Esquire magazine.

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From Plague:

By Wednesday evening eight people were suddenly dead, although speculation had pumped this figure to nearer one hundred. To every death there was a common theme: the afflicted were all young, or at least in early middle-age. Soon there was a growing crowd outside Surat's New Civil Hospital. Wards were close to capacity, the wail of ambulance sirens was audible across town. In the main lobby a huge concrete concourse, with rusty splashes of betel phlegm along the walls—crowds were fighting to get to the drug counters. From the balcony above, a line of doctors scanned the melee: dressed head to toe in white, their faces masked, only their dark eyes visible. "As if the deaths were not bad enough," said Dr. Shailendra Vajpeyee, "no one had any idea of the cause." An emergency meeting was called. Senior doctors, surgeons and administrators argued furiously. One said it was dengue fever, another a mutant strain of malaria. A third carried news from a nearby hospital, where two more people had died, both with the same symptoms. Finally, into a room suddenly silent, one of the doctors spoke softly, with certainty. "It's the plague."

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