If you want nightmares about the coming apocalypse; I highly recommend this book. Let me set the stage... Its 1918, We are at the tale end of WWI, but of course, no one knows that. Suddenly, starting in military base camps, young men and women are getting sick and dying in a matter of days, sometimes hours. It spreads city to city some daily death tolls as high as 10,000 people in one city alone. The press isn't reporting (wartime propaganda didn't want anything demoralizing in the news), claiming that there is no illness, this is just the flu. No need to worry at all. Absolutely terrifying, and very chilling.
Barry has exhaustively researched this. It took him seven years to compile the story of this book. He traces the 1918 influenza virus around the world, but mostly concentrates here in America. Everything is tied to stories of the beginnings of medical science, the Rockefellar Institute, the Johns Hopkins and such. But it all comes back to influenza.
Estimates say that as many as 100 million people died in that pandemic. Absolutely inconceivable! Other little tidbits that were scary was that the virus did its most lethal work in healthy people. In a nutshell, the immune system was pulling heavy artillery out against the respiratory system where the virus was. The better your immune system, the better it destroyed your lungs. Some people died before feeling any symptoms.
Barry gets a little heavy on reciting statistics, and at times the ties to certain doctors are tenuous at best. He places a lot of stress on the story of Paul Lewis, who, while involved with the pandemic, didn't really do a lot after discarding his first (and correct) idea that it was a virus that caused flu, not a bacteria. Lewis was a brilliant scientist, who eventually died of yellow fever after contracting it through his lab experiments (it is unclear whether this was a suicide or not), but that is another story, not the story of the "deadliest plague in history". But I understand why Barry needed to put a human face on this monster.
Barry finally brings it all together with how this all affects us today.... with avian flu looming in Asia. All said, this is a great informative book, but reads like a medical journal at times. Hence the 7.