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Patient Zero

A Curious History of the World's Worst Diseases

Patient Zero
Lydia Kang By (author)
Nate Pedersen By (author)
Product ID:  101329
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Workman Publishing Co

Limited ***

6.3 X 8.8 in
400 pg

MEDICAL / Epidemiology
HISTORY / Social History
SCIENCE / History


How did it start? Why did it spread? How do we stop it?
Packed with one thrilling medical mystery after another, Patient Zero tells the curious story of 21 of the world’s worst diseases—including smallpox, Bubonic plague, polio, AIDS—by combining Patient Zero narratives with historical examinations of missteps, milestones, scientific theories, and more. Discover the tragic story of Zaire schoolteacher Mabalo Lokela, whose relaxing vacation resulted in him becoming Patient Zero of Ebola virus disease. How a rye fungus in 1951 turned a small village in France into a phantasmagoric scene reminiscent of Burning Man. And what the devastating 1918 influenza pandemic has to teach us about Covid-19. (Guess what: There was an anti-mask movement back then, too)



"[A] rich and thought-provoking book... It's also a profound reconsideration of our common understanding of our most famous stories of sickness and science."

“A thorough and morbidly funny study of some of the world’s deadliest diseases… Readers will be swept away by this energetic and enlightening survey”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“If only my AP Bio textbook had been so fun. From Mad Cow to Monkeypox, here’s everything you wanted to know about the diseases you’re glad you don’t have. Hopefully!”
Mo Rocca, author of Mobituaries
“Some of these stories read like gripping crime novels, some like Victorian tragedies, and some like futuristic thrillers. Patient Zero is essential and—dare I say it—entertaining reading.”
Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants
“A fascinating foray into the etiology of fevers, flus, and other foul febrilities.”
James Nestor, New York Times bestselling author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
Patient Zero offers an encyclopedic presentation of historic outbreaks that tell fascinating and fast-moving tales of courage, tragedy, and loss (of life, of limbs, of freedom…of noses).”
Dr. Brandy Schillace, author of Mr. Humbleand Dr. Butcher

“There is something here to astound even the most seasoned medical historian. I found myself utterly engrossed.”
Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Butchering Art

Author Bio

Lydia Kang, MD, is a practicing internal medicine physician and author of young adult fiction and adult fiction. Her YA novels include Control, Catalyst, and the upcoming The November Girl. Her adult fiction debut is entitled A Beautiful Poison. Her nonfiction has been published in JAMA, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Nate Pedersen is a librarian, historian, and freelance journalist with over 400 publications in print and online, including in the Guardian, the Believer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Art of Manliness.