Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America

196p. (Deadly Disease). bibliog. chart. chron. further reading. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek. Apr. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781620917381; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781629795621.
RedReviewStarGr 5 Up—With a mesmerizing description of the suffering endured by bubonic plague victims, followed by several fascinatingly gruesome photographs depicting visible signs of the disease, Jarrow hooks readers from the start. This final installment of the author's "Deadly Disease" trilogy is as compelling as the first two titles, Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat (2014) and Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary (2015, both Boyds Mills). Before describing the chaos the plague wrought on American shores, Jarrow recounts major plague outbreaks throughout history as well as early bacteriological advances, such as the identification by French scientist Alexandre Yersin of the microbe responsible for the bubonic plague. The plague arrived in the port city of San Francisco in 1900 and claimed its first victim in Chinatown, a neighborhood near the wharves. Chinatown was quickly quarantined by the Board of Health, but with California Governor Henry T. Gage denying the existence of plague and Chinese officials bucking against perceived discrimination, tensions rose and containment efforts failed. Eventually Rupert Blue of the Marine-Hospital Service was brought in by the surgeon general to control the outbreak. When the plague returned to San Francisco in 1907 after the devastating earthquake of 1906, Blue came back. By this time scientists had determined that the fleas on rats were responsible for transmitting the plague, and the city mobilized to curtail the rat population, successfully containing the outbreak in a matter of months. Weaving in numerous photographs and newspaper clippings, Jarrow tells an absorbing story.
VERDICT Nonfiction that reads like a thriller—not to be missed.

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