I really enjoyed Wright’s It Ended Badly and I’ve read several book on the subjects covered in Get Well Soon (like Smallpox, Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy and Oliver Sacks) so this seemed like a natural Must Read.
Vaccination is one of the best things that has happened to civilization. Empires toppled like sandcastles in the wake of diseases we do not give a second thought to today. If taking a moment to elaborate on that point will make this book unpopular with a large group of antivaxxers, that’s okay. This feels like a good hill to die on. It’s surely a better one than the Incas got.
Wright delivers a well researched and snarky collection of essays beginning with the Antonine Plague and ending with Polio. She pokes fun at John Snow (who discovered the cause of Cholera when he wasn’t protecting the Wall) and lavishes praise on Father Damien for his work with Lepers on Molokai & Jonas Salk for discovery of the Polio vaccine which he proceeded to give away. She also criticizes the government’s reaction to the Spanish Influenza- she has very strong opinions about Woodrow Wilson.
When President Woodrow Wilson agreed that more young soldiers- men who would be at the most likely age to die of the disease- would have been sent overseas (around 250,000 in October), he reportedly turned to his aide and remarked, “I wonder if you have heard this limerick? ‘I had a little bird and his name was Enza..'”
Hearing this, do you think Woodrow Wilson a monster? Because he seems to be doing a very good imitation of Donald Sutherland’s character in the movie trilogy The Hunger Games.
Wright uses humor and intelligence to provide brief, but informative, overviews of some of history’s most prevalent plagues, as well as lesser known afflictions like The Dancing Plague. Perhaps if quippy essays about outbreaks were required reading there wouldn’t have been a measles outbreak in the 21st century.