Patient Zero is a history of the field of epidemiology, or the study of diseases in a population. It takes the reader through seven different epidemics in history and details the disease, the scientists tracking and attempting to cure the disease, and gives the reader an introduction to a possible patient zero—the first person to get the disease. The seven epidemics include, the plague, cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, Spanish influenza, ebola, and AIDS.
First, let me start off by saying that the information in this book is very interesting. Peters does an impressive job introducing us to each of these epidemics and giving the reader facts about causes and potential causes for the epidemics. She highlights the scientist who begin tracking diseases in new ways and how their contributions helped expand the field of epidemiology. I found each of the histories interesting, and she humanizes the book by giving the reader examples of who patient zero might have been.
While the topic and the information was very interesting, I found the format of the book terribly distracting. You would be reading about the disease, and then in the middle of a sentence when you turn the page, you find yourself at an information side bar. The side bar is related, and yes interesting, but when you finish reading it you have to go back and re-read what you had been reading so you can continue when you left off. I found the placements of these to be poorly designed.
My other criticism of the book is that all of the illustrations are very cartoony. Since this is a book about science, it would have been nice if they had included actual pictures. For example, pictures of the scientists if available, pictures of the viruses under a microscope, etc. It would have made the book more credible and more useful in a classroom.
Despite its flaws I found this book fascinating. I felt it engaged the reader and gave them a lot of good information about the field of epidemiology. I highly recommend this book to students who like science and are interested in medicine, or who just like history. The book had plenty of facts and they are presented in a way that isn’t dry or boring.
Cautions for Sensitive Readers:
Sex: None though this book does cover the AIDS epidemic.
Drugs: None though this book does cover the AIDS epidemic.
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