The Panic Virus Summary

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The book I chose to read and write a report on was the novel The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin. The nonfiction story documents how fear has caused a panic among parents specifically of autistic children. Looking for an explanation, sometimes parents take correlation of some two events and assume causation. Mnookin takes a look at how the anti-vaccine movement threatens us all and how illogical fear is the driving force behind it. The story all begins in 1998 with a look at the illegitimate findings provided by British gastroenterologist, Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield claimed that he had found a causal link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine after doing a simple case study …show more content…
immediately condemned his claims, many parents bought into the fear especially with the assistance of the media. Not only were parents of autistic children now in belief and support of Wakefield’s allegations, but soon parents of non-autistic children were shying away from vaccinating their children. After the fear spread, the rates of vaccinated children across Western Europe began to decrease. In 1999, the Centers for Disease control along with the American Academy of Pediatrics made a public statement recommending that the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal be removed from children’s shots. This added fuel to the fire and even though there was no tangible evidence, the emotional pull of stories from parents of autistic children had the media in a huge frenzy. Subsequently, this resulted in vaccination rates dropping in the United States as well. The consequence of these illogical ideas being spread is that without vaccinating children, the possibility of a resurgence of these deadly diseases could occur. It seems that many forget that before vaccines, hundreds of millions of people died of these …show more content…
Wakefield stirred up and obtain the truth, Mnookin provides a well researched, scientific report that explains the faulty manner in which Wakefield presents his arguments, and also details a multitude of interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists. Although the book spends a great deal of time discussing how fear replaces rational thought in terms of medical and social issues, the author’s main point can be seen right at the beginning of the book when he says, “What nagged at me, I realized, was the pervasiveness of a manner of thinking that ran counter to the principles of deductive reasoning that have been the foundation of rational society since the Enlightenment” (Mnookin 11). Mnookin then spends the rest of the book on a mission to find out why despite any substantial support, so many people believe in false ideas and why the media allows these false ideas to

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