Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Smallpox & Carrell's The Speckled Monster

From today's front page New York Times article "Wary of Attack With Smallpox, U.S. Buys Up a Costly Drug:"
The United States government is buying enough of a new smallpox medicine to treat two million people in the event of a bioterrorism attack, and took delivery of the first shipment of it last week. But the purchase has set off a debate about the lucrative contract, with some experts saying the government is buying too much of the drug at too high a price... Smallpox was eradicated by 1980, and the only known remaining virus is in government laboratories in the United States and Russia. But there have long been rumors of renegade stocks that could be sprayed in airports or sports stadiums. Experts say the virus could also be re-engineered into existence in a sophisticated genetics lab.

I don't know about you, but I don't have much idea of what smallpox is like. It appears we are in luck, however, because Jennifer Lee Carrell's semi-novel The Speckled Monster puts us right in the middle of an outbreak:
The Speckled Monster tells the dramatic story of two parents who dared to fight back against smallpox. After barely surviving the agony of smallpox themselves, they flouted eighteenth-century medicine by borrowing folk knowledge from African slaves and Eastern women in frantic bids to protect their children. From their heroic struggles stems the modern science of immunology as well as the vaccinations that remain our only hope should the disease ever be unleashed again. Jennifer Lee Carrell transports readers back to the early eighteenth century to tell the tales of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, two iconoclastic figures who helped save London and Boston from the deadliest disease mankind has known.

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