How do contagious diseases spread and what can we do to stop them? Hear from epidemiologists, historians and reporters as they look back at past outbreaks that have threatened public health, including bird flu, AIDS, malaria and the Ebola virus. This collection discusses how public policy, media coverage and paranoia have shaped our response to previous pandemics.
Nathan Wolfe travels to the viral hot spots of the world, where viruses first jump from animals to humans. The scientist spends his days tracking emerging infectious diseases before they turn into global pandemics.
Writer Laurie Garrett has been a science reporter for NPR, New York "Newsday," "Omni," and other publications. She wrote the new book, "The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance." It explores the emergence of new infectious viruses like AIDS and Ebola, and the new strains of known diseases that are resistant to many treatments. Garrett examines the conditions that favor the spread of these microbes and looks at possible solutions to stop the diseases.
Francis has worked on the AIDS epidemic since 1981, and is currently working on developing a vaccine. He was portrayed by Matthew Modine in "The Band Played On" and was a consultant on "Outbreak." He's worked for the Centers for Disease Control, and has researched Ebola outbreaks in Africa.
Holding immigrants responsible for various health epidemics has been an American pastime for two centuries argues Alan Kraut, Professor of History at American University. Just as the Irish were wrongly blamed for the cholera epidemic in the 1830's so too were Haitians in Miami branded as AIDS carriers in the 1980's. His new book "Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes, & the "Immigrant Menace"" (Basic Books) traces how immigration policy and health care have been affected by xenophobia and public fears of contamination. (Interview by Marty Moss-Coane)
In 1989, there was a small outbreak of an extremely contagious virus, the Ebola virus, in a lab in Reston, Virginia. The Army was brought in to stop the spread of the disease. The disease causes its victims to bleed to death. Richard Preston has written a new book about the incident, called "The Hot Zone."
If public health officials know how to prevent malaria, the mosquito-borne pathogen that kills more than a million people each year, why isn't more being done to eradicate the infectious disease? That's the question journalist Sonia Shah decided to answer in her book, The Fever, which examines why malaria continues to spread around the globe.
During the 1898-1904 pox epidemic, public health officials and policemen forced thousands of Americans to be vaccinated against their will. Historian Michael Willrich examines that epidemic's far-reaching implications for individual civil liberties in Pox: An American History.
Larry Gross is a professor of communications at the Annenberg School of Communications of the University of Pennsylvania. He studies television violence and the portrayal of women in minorities on t.v. and their effects on viewers. Gross is the co-chair of the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force and a member of the Philadelphia AIDS Task Force. He joins the show to evaluate the media coverage of AIDS and how it has shaped the American public's response to the disease.
Reporter Malcolm Gladwell of the New Yorker speaks about the Spanish influenza of 1918. Gladwell's article in September 29th's New Yorker explores the medical potential of seven buried bodies stricken by this flu. Lodged in the Arctic tundra, the bodies, soon to be exhumed, may hold clues on how to prevent a similar epidemic in the future. Gladwell is the former New York bureau chief of the Washington Post. (Interview by Barbara Bogaev)
Dr. Paul Volberding and nurse Cliff Morrison were on the frontlines of the AIDS epidemic treating patients in the early 1980s before anyone understood what the disease was, or how it was spread. They are now featured in the new documentary '5B'.
Barry's new book is The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. In 1918, the influenza virus emerged, and in the next year killed millions of people. He writes "before that worldwide pandemic faded away in 1920, it would kill more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history." Scientists are still trying to figure out why the virus spread so rapidly and killed so efficiently. The story has relevance today as scientists believe we are due for another flu pandemic.
As millions of people remain socially isolated and anxious about COVID-19, several U.S. governors are at least making plans to relax controls in their states and revive economic activity — against the advice of many public health professionals.
New York Times science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. warns that the push to reopen is premature. "We're nowhere near getting on top of this virus," he says.