This riveting story of the typhus and cholera epidemics that swept through New York City in 1892 has been updated with a new preface that tackles the COVID-19 pandemic. Winner, 2003 Arthur J. Viseltear Prize for Outstanding Book in the History of Public Health, American Public Health Association In Quarantine! Howard Markel traces the course of the typhus and cholera epidemics that swept through New York City in 1892. The story is told from the point of view of those involved—the public health doctors who diagnosed and treated the victims, the newspaper reporters who covered the stories, the government officials who established and enforced policy, and, most importantly, the immigrants themselves. Drawing on rarely cited stories from the Yiddish American press, immigrant diaries and letters, and official accounts, Markel follows the immigrants on their journey from a squalid and precarious existence in Russia's Pale of Settlement, to their passage in steerage, to New York's Lower East Side, to the city's quarantine islands. This updated edition features a new preface from the author that reflects on the themes of the book in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time of renewed anti-immigrant sentiment and newly emerging infectious diseases, Quarantine! provides a historical context for considering some of the significant problems that face American society today.
In March 1900, Dr. Joseph James Kinyoun, a surgeon with the Marine Hospital Service and the founder of the Hygienic Laboratory, which became the National Institutes of Health, discovered bubonic plague in San Francisco. His finding led to an immediate outcry from the governor, local and state politicians, and the city's commercial interests. In the hyper-sensationalized journalism of San Francisco's newspapers, Kinyoun was ridiculed, leading to death threats and a $50,000 bounty on his head. Eventually, California's quarantine caused an enormous uproar. By the time a special federal commission produced a report (initially withheld from the public, leading to charges of a coverup) that vindicated Kinyoun, a deal had been brokered wherein the pioneering doctor was removed from his post. This book tells a timely story about yellow journalism, coverup, corruption, the struggle between science and politics, and the consequences of blind denial of the truth.