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Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries

Molly Caldwell Crosby.
Publisher Berkeley  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.25 x 5.5 x 0.85 inches
ISBN 9780425238738
Pages/Publication Date 291/2010
Daedalus Item Code 38255
This item is not available.
The author of The American Plague—a "first-rate medical detective drama" (New York Times, editor's pick)—Molly Cadwell Crosby returns with this fascinating look at a silent epidemic all but lost in the public consciousness after the twin disasters of World War I and the flu pandemic of 1918. Encephalitis lethargica, the sleeping sickness, spread worldwide, leaving millions dead or institutionalized. Then, in 1927, it disappeared as suddenly as it arrived. Set in 1920s and 30s New York, Asleep follows a group of neurologists as they try to stop this disease and treat its victims—some of whom awoke (like the author's grandmother) to find that the worst fate was not dying of it, but surviving it.

"Molly Crosby has provided a brilliant and deeply moving account of the fearful years between 1915 and 1927, when this mysterious, worldwide pandemic struck, giving us vivid, intensely human portraits."—Oliver Sacks

"On the heels of World War I, another atrocity emerged to take millions more lives: flu. Overshadowed by that worldwide viral menace was an equally—indeed, Crosby believes, an even more—frightening killer, encephalitis lethargica (EL). If the name rings no bell, perhaps that isn't surprising, since the malady claimed 'only' a million lives, though it left at least that many more permanently disabled, before dropping off epidemiologists' maps around 1927. The illness's popular moniker, sleeping sickness, is more familiar, to the point of seeming innocuous. But the disease was and is anything but. No one has ever been able to articulate its etiology. Just because it flared up during a flu pandemic doesn't mean it is linked to flu by either causation or correlation. Yet the concurrence cannot be discounted. What's more, the disease is unpredictable, having re-emerged a couple times since the 1920s. Crosby and others fear EL may return simultaneously with another worldwide outbreak of flu. Medical science is, they insist, no better prepared for it than it was 90 years ago."—Booklist

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