by Gail Jarrow
196 pages; ages 10 & up
Calkins Creek, 2016
“The killer was a master of stealth. It moved undetected, sneaking from victim to victim and always catching its targets by surprise.”
How can you resist reading on? In this, her third in a series of books on deadly diseases, Gail Jarrow skillfully blends medical mystery, history, and a dose of political nonsense.
Bubonic plague went by many names: The Pestilence; the Great Mortality; Black Death; and The Plague. It was marked with high fever, headaches, weakness, achiness, chills – sometimes nausea and diarrhea. Corpses piled high. Nobody knew who – or what- the killer was. Doctors tried their usual remedies, from bleeding with leeches (1600s) to sterilizing victim’s homes – or burning them (1800s). By the 1894 outbreak in Hong Kong, doctors thought it might be germs, and they began looking for the culprit. Sure enough, it was a bacteria.
But identifying the deadly microbe was only part of the battle. Scientists and public health officials had no idea how it was transmitted- plague victims often caught the disease even though they had no contact with another victim. Could it be rats?
People living in rat-infested buildings got sick. But people who handled rats that were dead longer than a day didn’t catch this disease. Could it be fleas, wondered scientists? And – in a world where ships traveled across the globe – how could health officials keep infected rats, fleas, and people from introducing plague into the local population?
Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for a Book Giveaway and an interview with the author.