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Books, Journals, New Media
April 6, 2005

Epidemics, History

JAMA. 2005;293(13):1671-1676. doi:10.1001/jama.293.13.1673

In When Germs Travel, Dr Howard Markel provides a fascinating, sometimes gripping description of the often infelicitous intersection of infectious diseases and official US public health policy. In his vivid descriptions of the official approaches to five major infectious disease threats (and one false alarm) during the 20th century, the author emphasizes that both irrational fear and widespread prejudice against marginalized immigrant groups have repeatedly outweighed sound science and basic humanity in dictating official policy in response to such threats. A subtitle of this book might well have been “Man’s continuing inhumanity to man.”

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