The "Australia" sailed into the port of San Francisco on the day after New Years, 1900. The steamer passed an inspection, but carried infected rats carrying bubonic plague. With stunning narrative immediacy, fortified by rich research, "The Barbary Plague" chronicles a city under siege during the end of the gilded age.The "Australia" sailed into the port of San Francisco on the day after New Years, 1900. The steamer passed an inspection, but carried infected rats carrying bubonic plague. With stunning narrative immediacy, fortified by rich research, "The Barbary Plague" chronicles a city under siege during the end of the gilded age.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 2002-12-16 In 1900, a ship called the Australia docked in San Francisco, carrying infected rats that launched a plague epidemic in the city, which raged sporadically for five years before it was subdued. Chase, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, argues in this engaging narrative that social, cultural and psychological issues prevented public health officials from curtailing the outbreak. Relying on published sources, diaries and letters, Chase shows how the disease first hit Chinatown and explains that most San Franciscans denied the outbreak, while others blamed the city's Chinese population (city officials hid behind worries about tourism and the city's reputation). But Chase goes beyond sociological analysis in this lively work and focuses on the players. While the first public health official assigned to stem the epidemic, Joseph Kinyoun, was an innovative scientist, Chase shows how he lacked the strategy and tact necessary for the task-his plan to quarantine Chinatown caused as many problems as it solved. Only when Rupert Blue, a new official, was assigned to the case after a second outbreak five years later, was the epidemic quashed. Avoiding pedantry and tediousness, Chase tells a story that highlights the true nature of epidemics-and how employing a combination of acceptance, perseverance and diplomacy are key to solving them. As she notes in her final pages, the parallels with the AIDS crisis are striking, and the lessons worth salting away for any future epidemics. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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