The panic virus : a true story of medicine, science, and fear Seth Mnookin New York : Simon & Schuster, 2011 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 429 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 373-410) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist 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 branded as a profiteer in league with class-action lawyers, and he would eventually be stripped of his medical license. Meanwhile one study after another failed to find any link between childhood vaccines and autism.
The idea that vaccines may 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. Meanwhile millions of dollars have been diverted from 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 Panic Virus is a riveting and sometimes heart-breaking medical detective story that explores the limits of not only science but also how the media informs the public about science.