History of Pandemics and Medicine

Sometimes the best way to learn about something is to study the history of it. And in this time of quarantine and social distancing, the history of pandemics and medicine may be one to catch your interest. So, if this applies to you, check out some of the YA titles below. The physical copies of these books can be reserved for Curbside Pickup. Please carefully read the instructions about this service to receive print books and other tangible library materials. 

*All book descriptions are from the publisher.

Very, Very, Very Dreadful by Albert Marrin

In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.

Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people—one-third of the global population at the time—came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.

In this powerful book, filled with black and white photographs, nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines the history, science, and impact of this great scourge—and the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook/audiobook and physical book.

Vaccination Investigation by Tara Haelle

Vaccines are biological substances that cause the human immune system to build up its defenses against specific diseases. Public health officials recommend a series of vaccines for all children, as well as some vaccines for teenagers and adults. But not everyone gets the vaccines they need. Many poor nations don’t have the resources to deliver vaccines to every community. Some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated because they don’t believe the evidence proving that vaccines are safe.

The effort to wipe out diseases using vaccines continues. Vaccine Investigation recounts the fascinating history of vaccines, their important role in protecting community health, and the excitement of cutting-edge research.

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook, hoopla ebook, and physical book.

Pandemic: How Climate, the Environment, and Superbugs Increase the Risk by Connie Goldsmith

How close are we to having another worldwide health crisis? Epidemiologists predict that another pandemic is coming—one that could kill hundreds of millions of people. Learn about factors that contribute to the spread of disease by examining past pandemics and epidemics. Examine case studies of potential pandemic diseases, and discover how scientists strive to contain and control the spread of disease both locally and globally. See how human activities such as global air travel and the disruption of animal habitats contribute to the risk of a new pandemic. And investigate the challenges we face with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and mutating viruses. Can scientists control the spread of disease and prevent the next pandemic?

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook, hoopla ebook, and physical book

For the Good of Mankind? By Vicki Oransky Wittenstein

Experiment: A child is deliberately infected with the deadly smallpox disease without his parents’ informed consent. Result: The world’s first vaccine.

Experiment: A slave woman is forced to undergo more than thirty operations without anesthesia. Result: The beginnings of modern gynecology.

Incidents like these paved the way for crucial, lifesaving medical discoveries. But they also harmed and humiliated their test subjects. How do doctors balance the need to test new medicines and procedures with their ethical duty to protect the rights of humans? Take a journey through some of history’s greatest medical advances—and its most horrifying medical atrocities—to discover how human suffering has gone hand in hand with medical advancement.

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook and hoopla ebook

Outbreak! By Bryn Barnard

Did the Black Death destroy medieval Europe? Did cholera pave the way for modern Manhattan? Did yellow fever help end the slave trade? Remarkably, the answer to all of these questions is yes. Time and again, diseases have impacted the course of human history in surprisingly powerful ways. From influenza to smallpox, from tuberculosis to yellow fever, Bryn Barnard describes the symptoms and paths of the world’s worst diseases—and how the epidemics they spawned have changed history forever.

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook.

Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge: The Dirty Secrets Behind Early American Medicine by J. Marin Younker

Riots over the medical use of cadavers. Public access to institutions for the insane. And full-blown surgeries without the aid of anesthetics or painkillers. Welcome to the middle ages of American medicine. Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge exposes the extraordinary practices and major players of American medical history, from the colonial era to the late 1800s. It’s hard to believe that today’s cutting-edge medicine originated from such crude beginnings, but this book reminds us to be grateful for today’s medical care, while also raising the question: what current medical practices will be the horrors of tomorrow?

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook, hoopla ebook, and physical book.

Discover Abbot Public Library’s Health Resources!

While a Google search might seem like an easy alternative for seeking medical information, especially at a time without access to library print copies, it comes with caveats. The search itself is easy; sifting through myriads of entries to look for relevant information takes eons. Most importantly, though, is the question of reliability – just how trustworthy is the source?

Instead, we suggest using services and databases that provide relevant, reliable, and up-to-date information. These are free services brought to you by the Abbot Public Library!

Please note: these resources are meant for informational purposes only. If you are experiencing symptoms and required medical attention, please speak to a doctor.

Through EBSCO, you get access to various medical and health databases, such as Medline or Clinical Pharmacology, where you can search medical dictionaries and obtain articles from medical journals and magazines.

You can set up search and language preferences, and are able to print out articles that you find useful.

You can search or browse through a list of topics in the Gale Health and Wellness database, designed for consumers. Its information comes from encyclopedias, academic journals, and magazines. Some of the other features include availability of audio-format or text highlighting.

If you need more in-depth information, you can also access the Gale Health and Medicine database created for healthcare professionals and knowledgeable health researchers, where you will find information from the medical professional’s perspective.

A recent acquisition by the Abbot Public Library, a collection of health databases by Salem Press, previously reviewed on our blog, is another medical reference resource.

hoopla has medical books, with general information on diseases, their symptoms, and suggested treatments. Click on the book cover images to go to the ebooks in hoopla.

For maintaining good health and preventing diseases, as well as alternative medicine, you might consider these recommendations:

Overdrive/Libby has quite an extensive section of medical books as well, including the following:

All these databases and digital books are free resources available through the Abbot Public Library with your library card.

Stay safe and take care!