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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • tara
  • Cheney, WA, United States
  • 06-18-13

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • 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.

12 of 15 people found this review 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.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Diane
  • Louisville, KY, United States
  • 09-25-11

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!

5 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Captivating, Enlightening, and Thoroughly Written

I found The Panic Virus, a non-fiction work by Seth Mnooke about the vaccine-autism controversy, to be fascinating and captivating - in fact, I finished the entire book in one day. Previously to reading, frequently hearing snippets here and there about the supposed harm of vaccines, I was not only curious about the subject but also frustrated that I didn’t know enough about it to defend the field of medicine, a honorable field that I someday hope to enter.

I was very grateful for the enlightenment I gained through reading this book, even as a college student without imminent plans of raising children. Thus, I can only imagine how appreciative parents might be for it. Mnooke recognizes parents’ fears without being accusatory or making them feel guilty for fearing or questioning, brings those fears directly into the limelight, and transparently addresses them using cold and hard logic. He also routinely incorporates an assortment of candid vignettes, compelling the reader to identify with the characters he descibes. Each of these anecdotes is crafted to just the right length, providing satisfying detail without becoming boring or excessive.

Additionally, Mnooke provides miniature lessons in psychology in an effort to help the audience gain insight on the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind the actions of the book’s characters. One such lesson, for example, was on a type of cognitive bias called cognitive dissonance and how pioneers of the anti-vaccine movement developed strengthened beliefs in response to evidence of their glaring mistakes and reports of their pseudoscience methods. Overall, Mnooke does an impressive job explaining this subject, especially since it’s one that he knew relatively little about previous to the start of this project.

As a result of reading this book, I’m upset about the damage that the anti-vaccine movement has caused but hopeful that more people will read this and come to their senses. Looking ahead, I agree with Mnooke that the best thing that parents can do is educate themselves and become more active in medical discussions, particularly during prenatal care, where things like a crying baby, gullible preschool parents, and temporal pressures cannot distract them from truly understanding why vaccines are imperative to their future child and all of society.

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Eye opening information

Would you consider the audio edition of The Panic Virus to be better than the print version?

Yes as I have both.

Any additional comments?

It is good to hear this information that presents another view point on the immunization and vaccine safety issue. It comes across as truthful and the story told by someone who has the research experience to be able to tell the truth. As a nurse, I have seen the resurgence of medical illness' thought to controlled forever. This book can provide information needed to help people make a fair decision about the safety of vaccines.

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Can't believe this is still going on

I told someone that I was listening to this book and was surprised that they believed that a contributing factor for disease in children was from all the vaccinations they take. Never mind that we're now seeing growth in diseases that were around when I was a child in '60s. I'm glad that both my children had all their vaccinations when they were young. It's interesting that snake oil salesmen existed in the early years of this country because
there was to little information. Now they exist because we're subjected to an overflow of information and we have a hard time separating fact from fiction

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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!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • ANDRÉ
  • ORLANDO, FL, United States
  • 08-01-12

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.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful