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Mass Mediated Disease

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Mass Mediated Disease
A Case Study Analysis of Three Flu Pandemics and Public Health Policy. By Debra E. Blakely. (Lexington Books Lanham, Maryland: 2007. Pg. 187.) ISBN 10: 0-7391-1388-7. ISBN 13: 978-0-7391-1388-2.

Reviewed by Angela Evans - August 27, 2007

Mass Mediated Disease is a unique book by Debra E. Blakely that provides an in-depth analysis of three different flu pandemics. What makes this book so unique is that this analysis was conducted from the vantage point of how various newspapers, such as the The Times of London and The New York Times reported on these epidemics. The end result is an eye-opening analysis of how these epidemics were viewed in the popular culture, and more important, how the media filtered information about the pandemics to the public.

The three pandemics covered in this book are the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic, the 1957 Asian influenza pandemic, and the 1968 Hong Kong Influenza pandemic. This historical analysis of these pandemics is significant on a number of levels. Not only does it indicate how the general public reacted to these pandemics, but it also offers insights into how the pubic might react when the next flu pandemic or other contagious disease engulfs the world. It also illustrates the role played by public health departments, both in administering to the ill and in helping to contain panic and transmitting vital, and accurate, information to the public. This book also offers invaluable guidance on what not to do in any type of emergency involving mass casualties.

Students and researchers in a variety of fields, including history, media studies, public health, and public policy will benefit greatly from this book. The text is also well suited for use in university level courses in any of the previously mentioned fields. Mass Mediated Disease does not just present an historic overview of these pandemics. It also examines the long term impact of these events. Most important, however, this book illustrates the role that the media has in setting public policy, and the enormous responsibility that the media has when reporting on such monumental events. As Blakely points out, journalists have the ability to calm fears about an epidemic - or they can cause panic by being overly alarmist. Detailed, and groundbreaking, Mass Mediated Disease is essential reading for anyone with an interest in public health issues, media studies, or the history of pandemics.

Related Reviews:

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, By Gina Kolata.
In this book, Kolata offers the reader an in-depth look at the 1918 influenza pandemic; including what influenza is, the effects that the epidemic had both politically and culturally, and its long term aftereffects.

The Black Death in Egypt and England, by Stuart J. Borsch.
An in-depth comparative study on the effect of the Black Death on Egyptian and English economies and agricultural systems. Also examines how agrarian practices in both countries affected their recovery rates.

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