• The Panic Virus

  • A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear
  • By: Seth Mnookin
  • Narrated by: Dan John Miller
  • Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (279 ratings)
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The Panic Virus

By: Seth Mnookin
Narrated by: Dan John Miller
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Publisher's summary

The Panic Virus is a gripping scientific detective story about how grassroots radicals, snake-oil salesmen, and cynical journalists have perpetrated the biggest health-scare hoax of all time. It explores what happens when the media treats all viewpoints as equally valid, regardless of facts, from parents who are convinced that vaccines caused their children's autism to right-wing radicals who believe that climate change is a myth. It also explains how the endless quantity of information available online has radicalized partisans by fueling their tendency to filter out anything that doesn't reinforce their way of thinking.

Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted appeasing denialists who think the government is perpetrating a health "holocaust" on children. Declining vaccination rates have caused recent outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, and Hib - and children around the country are dying as a result.

Like works by Oliver Sacks and Richard Dawkins, The Panic Virus uses everyday experiences to show how science affects our lives. Listeners will learn why definitive proof in science is virtually impossible, how rational decision-making is ruled by emotion, and why paupers' graves in the 1880s led to an outbreak of throat cancer in the 1950s.

©2011 Seth Mnookin (P)2011 Tantor

Critic reviews

"A riveting and important chronicle of one life-and-death realm in which passionate, panicky belief has dangerously trumped reason---and put millions of children at risk." (Kurt Andersen, author of Heyday)

What listeners say about The Panic Virus

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Incredible thorough journey

This book was non-stop interesting and informative as Seth Mnookin demonstrates that the anti-vaccine movement is not a modern thing, but rather goes all the way back to even the Smallpox vaccine, which we now know was responsible for fully eradicating the Smallbox virus from the world. He doesn't pretend that vaccines have no risks, or that the government and health agencies didn't frequently underestimate the consequences of not fully explaining those risks to everyone. This caused backlashes resulting in lower immunity rates as younger populations forgot about how bad each illness was.

This was repeated time and time again with polio, mumps, measles and whoooping cough (pertussis).

The book goes all the way through the landmark Autism omnibus trial as he demonstrates just how utterly lacking the case was for the anti-vaccine side as they had to delay for more than a year to even find a set of doctors willing to testify to the theory of vaccine-caused Autism.

The narrator of this was very good and was never a distraction from the content.

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12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

The day after I finished Seth Mnookin's "The Panic Virus" (2011) I heard Paul Krugman's March 30, 2014 New York Times Op-Ed "Jobs and Skills and Zombies." Referring to the 'skills gap', Krugman says, "It’s a prime example of a zombie idea — an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die." Mnookin makes the same point about the idea that vaccines cause autism: that theory's long ago disproven, and anti-vaccine/autism activists should let it pass peacefully.

That isn't to say that vaccines are either entirely safe, or entirely effective. They are neither, and no one should fault actress/activist Jenny McCarthy for demanding an investigation, especially with the recent substantial increase in autism diagnoses. Mnookin discusses some spectacular public health failures, including a MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine campaign in the United Kingdom that killed 19 children in a small community. The vaccine, stored without preservatives at the time, was contaminated with staphylococcus. There have been polio vaccine campaigns that have given people polio, and still do - although it's usually a very mild case. Mnookin's point is that, after careful study, autism isn't a complication - even of the preservative thimerosol. And, by the way - thimerosol hasn't been used in vaccines in the United States for more than a dozen years.

[Reviewer's commentary: Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, using (in part) intelligence provided by Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi administering CIA-funded Hepatitis-B vaccines in Abbatobad. The program was dramatized as a polio vaccine program in Kathryn Bigelow's 2012 movie "Zero Dark Thirty." According to a March 27, 2014 Huffington Post article, at least 30 polio health workers have been killed in Pakistan since then. That makes the odds of being killed while administering the polio vaccine substantially higher than the odds of having an adverse reaction to the polio vaccine.]

The book was well written and engaging, although it was a bit repetitive. That actually means, like Andrew Solomon's "Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity" (2012), various chapters can stand alone without the entire book. Solomon's book, by the way, has a lot of information on autism and disabilities and is a good follow up to "The Panic Virus."

Mnookin points out a problem for everyone: deciding not to vaccinate, especially against pertussis, or whooping cough, eliminates crowd immunity. As Nancy Shute reported for NPR on September 30. 2013, "Vaccine Refusals Fueled California's Whooping Cough Epidemic." In 2010, 10 babies in California who were too young to be vaccinated died.

Setting aside the 'good of the many' argument for immunizations, Mnookin drives home - with actual dollar amounts - that money and other resources that could be used to study the actual cause of autism, and to treat those on 'the spectrum' are being used to disprove a zombie theory. Dr. Temple Grandin, a PhD and widely respected scientist with autism recommended iPads for people with autism in her 2013 book "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum." How many occupational therapists could have been hired, and how many iPads could have been purchased, for what the government has spent repeatedly studying the non-existent autism/vaccine link?

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9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

FINALLY!!! The truth about the vaccine scare

As a mother of an Autistic child, this scare encompassed my life for years. The lies were profoundly tossed around like facts, and real science took a back seat to peoples 'feelings'.
It's incredibly difficult for a scientifically minded person like myself to debate in an arena where the opposition only offers false information and the excuse of 'I just know!'
So many books have been written about the mercury in vaccines that DOESN'T EXIST, and no one tries to tackle the truth.
The narration was wonderful and very clear. He read it like a true investigation as he should have.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has questions about the validity of the vaccine scare to offer them some truth in all the lies and to expose the frauds for what they are.

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7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Broad & Detailed

If you want a comprehensive view of the history of the science and psuedoscience of vaccines, this book will provide it. Seth Mnookin thoroughly exposes the anti-vaccination forces by describing in detail the contexts in which they rose. He also reveals the mistakes that govenrnment and science-based organizations have made which have contributed to the growth of the anti-vax movement within mainstream society. I was engrossed from start to finish. Highly recommendedf for those interested in the topic.

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6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Parents need to read this!

New parents experience a powerful need to protect their young children--a need that often surpasses all others. Having a new child can be a frightening time--the world seems to present so many threats to this vulnerable new human being depending on you for its welfare and survival. There are so many choices to make, often with competing views on how to make them. It is every parent's nightmare that a choice he/she makes might cause their child harm.

What this book makes clear is that vaccinating your child should NOT be one of those hard choices. The author powerfully demonstrates that widespread misinformation can all too often lead conscientious parents into very bad decisions; specifically, to avoid the potential harm to their child through childhood vaccinations (which is, in fact, minuscule) they actually expose their own child and other children to a fair greater danger--that of the very diseases these vaccines have so effectively conquered since they have been introduced.

What made me most angry reading this book was the callous attitude of those refraining from vaccinating their own children with regard to the welfare of other children. The only reason they can maintain their position is by relying on the fact that the large majority of children ARE vaccinated thereby creating a "herd Immunity." They certainly wouldn't want EVERYONE to take their advice in refraining from these critical vaccinations, because then the likelihood of their own child contracting the illness would dramatically increase. In fact, this phenomenon is already occurring in some locations and sadly the victims tend to be among the most vulnerable--new infants who are too young for the vaccine and babies with compromised immune systems.

This book will convince you that you are doing the right thing by your child AND your community by adhering to your doctor's advice in administering all recommended vaccinations!

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5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Not Neutral to the Title

I am empathetic for any parents who have a special needs child because I have a disability and my parents also saw out treatment, but at what point should they accept the abilities of their son and daughter and let them be. It seems like Autism is always in the mainstream and is the only disability that is known to the public. Instead of accepting the disorder, most families are trying to find a magic wand to cure the disability.

Having a disability is different than having a disease.

Unlike having an infection, there are no antibiotics for being disable. Knowing someone who is disable, you learn to accept their physical and/or mental limitations and move on with their lives. That being said, I was disappointed in this book. There is no doubt there are side effects in being vaccinated, but 95% of what was presented in "The Panic Virus" was all about Autism.

There are other disorders that the pharmaceutical companies can cause, but very few was in this book. It just seemed like that the author was being paid by advocates for Autism and wasn't neutral to the title.

It felt like a scare tactic of being vaccinated, but science has proven of being immunized has inoculated the common diseases that once plague the world.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Don't vaccinate and see what happens

This book is an eye oppener. For the people who don't know how important vaccination is, and how exposed you become when you don't get your shots. The only problem, I guess, is that the book focus too much at autism. The author could shorten some one hundred pages.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Finally a Logical History on Vaccines and the Media

This is the first time I have come across a well documented, factual look at vaccines that doesn't try to manipulate your descision with emotions and hate toward science. Thank you!

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A Story that needs to be known by Every Parent.

Would you try another book from Seth Mnookin and/or Dan John Miller?

Yes

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

For someone like me, introduce more Laboratory experimentation settings into the picture. I enjoy those scenes a lot.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Yes.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Maybe.

Any additional comments?

This book delivers all the social aspects of Science, factless Science decisions and fraud. It is a book that needs to be listened by every parent in-doubt of Science and Vaccination. Seth Mnookin did his researches well to deliver such this nice piece and +1 for that. What I really lacked from the book was my lab experimentation settings and the Science in it was too narrow and too focused on one particular topic, I really understand it since it's main focus was to deliver Political and Social aspects surrounding Science and not how we do Science.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Informative

I purchased this book to gain some additional perspective after all the information thrown around on this topic by BOTH SIDES seems over-hyped and fact-less. This book does a wonderful job from the start to the finish explaining the history of vaccination and breaking down fact from fiction. impressive and informative

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