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Download Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist's Search for a Killer Virus epub

by Kirsty E. Duncan

In 1918, medical science was at a loss to explain the Spanish flu epidemic, which swept the world in three great waves and killed an estimated 20 to 40 million people in just one year, more than the number that died during the four years of World War I. Today, while the Spanish flu has faded in the public's memory, most virologists are convinced that sooner or later a similarly deadly flu virus will return with a vengeance.

Responding to this sustained interest in the Spanish flu, Kirsty Duncan in Hunting the 1918 Flu presents a detailed account of her experiences as she organized a multi-national, multi-discipline scientific expedition to exhume the bodies of a group of Norwegian miners, buried in Svalbard, all of whom died from the Spanish flu virus. Duncan weaves a twofold narrative: first, the story of a large-scale medical project with the objective of uncovering genetic material from the Spanish flu and second, a first-hand account of the turbulent politics that emerged as the group moved towards a goal where the egos were as strong as the stakes were high. Duncan, herself not an epidemiologist but a physical geographer, is very frank about her bruising emotional, financial, and professional experience on the 'dark side of science.' Readers witness how the research team engages in 'entropic' behaviour, despite its presumed dedication to science and the search for the virus, as the compelling story unfolds through the beginning progress and harrowing conclusion of her project (1992-2001).

In her account of pursuing the deadly killer, Kirsty Duncan raises questions not only regarding public health, epidemiology, ethics of science, and the rights of subjects but also about age, gender, and privilege in science. While her search for the virus has shown promising preliminary results, it has also shown the dangers of science itself being subsumed in the rush for personal acclaim.

Download Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist's Search for a Killer Virus epub
ISBN: 0802087485
ISBN13: 978-0802087485
Category: Medical Books
Subcategory: Medicine
Author: Kirsty E. Duncan
Language: English
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division (May 30, 2003)
Pages: 304 pages
ePUB size: 1736 kb
FB2 size: 1262 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 348
Other Formats: lit docx lrf lrf

I have long been interested in the 1918 influenza epidemic, and I began reading this book immediately after finishing "The Great Influenza" by John M. Barry. "The Great Influenza" is a very scholarly work that gives a great deal of background about the medical profession in 1918, conditions in the US during World War I, and truly stirring accounts of how viruses and the immune system work. When I started "Hunting the 1918 Flu," I was hoping for an expansion on the science of the epidemic. That's not what I got.
I was leery from the start because in the introductory material the author goes into considerable detail about her record-keeping and note-taking practices (to the extent of claiming there were witnesses present during many of her phone conversations regarding her project). I wondered, "Why is this woman so defensive?" I found that science is only peripherally addressed in her book; the main theme is how poorly she was treated by almost everyone except her fellow Canadians and the Norwegians she encountered. The Americans, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seem to be the bad guys in this story.
I tried hard to be open minded, but for the most part, I was unable to sympathize with the author. Every field of endeavor has its own politics, and it's not really very interesting to read about them. The author was a young woman, working in a field of study that was not her own, and at times her naivete shines like a beacon. It's not surprising that she was sometimes not taken seriously.
This book is very readable, and I'm sure the author is a very intelligent young woman. However, I think she would have served herself and her subject matter better by taking a more dispassionate tone. Her quest had the potential to be of true scientific value, and telling its story without all the histrionics would have made an interesting book.
I was initially worried that the book would be filled with complex scientific concepts, but everything was explained so that any reader could understand. The story about an expedition that was in danger of being stopped several times and the sheer determination of Dr. Duncan is inspiring. I also enjoyed learning about the people of Norway, who were so gracious and understanding of the importance of this expedition. I would highly recommend reading Hunting the 1918 Flu, as a reminder that history can and does repeat itself.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The work involved in the project was fascinating to read. The description of the area where the project took place was vivid. The personalities involved added to the travails encountered in such an undertaking.