Everyone knows that more people died in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic than were killed in the First World War: an estimated fifty million. What is more, many people fear that it could all happen again, given the influenza virus’s ability to mutate dangerously and the absence of either a fully effective vaccine to prevent it or a treatment to cure it.
In this laudably succinct but wide-ranging book, in which he only occasionally gives way to the temptations of the sensational and the demotic (the use of the latter being now almost de rigueur in books of popular science), Jeremy Brown, a specialist in emergency medicine who is more than familiar with the huge number of additional patients during the flu season, covers all aspects of the disease and its impact. He does so in such a way as to make everything comprehensible to the general reader, and I suspect that even many specialists will learn something that they did not know before.
Within the compass of 185 pages (excluding notes and index), Brown recounts the history of Spanish flu (which did not originate in Spain), explains why it is so difficult to develop a vaccine against the kaleidoscopically changing viruses that cause it, tells us how the virus responsible for Spanish flu