New Book Chronicles Malaria’s Chokehold on Human Progress2 min read
Journalist Sonia Shah brings us an important new account of how malaria has impeded human progress for half a million years and counting. Her book, The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years (Farrar, Straus, Giroux) ranges across history, geography vast numbers of victims and the many modern-day players who are pursuing its eradication. World travelers and anyone with an interest in how one disease can subjugate a wide swath of humanity will want to delve into Shah’s reporting.
Shah has previously tackled topics ranging from the story of crude oil to an account of pharmaceutical companies testing drugs on indigent patients. In The Fever she displays, according to one reviewer, “the same curiosity, eye for history, and anger on behalf of the oppressed.” Here are some other excerpts from recent reviews:
From New Scientist, Martin de Smet
The Fever is a mine of information, drawing on diverse accounts from medical experts and field workers. This is an important book on the historical lessons we must not forget and the mistakes we are still making today in the battle against what remains a formidable killer.
Critically, The Fever exposes the growing threat posed by donors who want to see immediate results. The issue is all too familiar to field workers, who see aid flooding into countries where success is more or less guaranteed, but poor investment in chaotic post-conflict countries where the burden of the disease is often heaviest. Everyone – politicians, donors, research institutes, lobby groups and the pharmaceutical industry – has their own agenda when it comes to malaria. Shah’s examination explores them all.
From NPR, Michael Schaub
Malaria has been a global scourge since the Ice Age, and despite the fact that it’s treatable, it still kills about 1 million people a year. Scientists and physicians have worked for decades upon decades to eliminate the disease, but after tens of thousands of years, it’s beginning to look unkillable.
It’s a compelling account of a disease that remains out of sight — and thus out of mind — for most Americans, even as it slowly tightens its grip on other parts of the world. Despite Shah’s engaging prose and obvious enthusiasm, the subject matter means it’s far from an easy read — but it might well be an essential one.