The Sunday Times (U.K.)

This … is fascinating stuff…. [Alcabes] asserts that whatever disease causes the next great outbreak, we won’t see it coming, and adds that the “ones we do see are never as hard to handle as the epidemic that the watchers claim to see in our future”. The unseen epidemics, of course, upset the illusion we have that we control our environment, that we are masters of our domain….    So, the next time you see someone wearing a face mask on the Tube, either read that passage aloud to them, or hit them over the head with the whole book. Sunday Times

Publishers Weekly — a starred review:

According to Alcabes, an essayist and expert in public health, “epidemics fascinate us”; hopeful projection or not, his study provides enough gruesome details and unexpected sidelights to captivate history fans …. Alcabes makes the science behind the history—as in a description of infected fleas regurgitating the plague bacteria into a victim’s system—just as gripping…. Showing how even  epidemics hinge on societal attitudes and expectations, Alcabes presents an engrossing, revealing account of the relationship between progress and plague. PW

Spiked says:

Philip Alcabes gets 10 out of 10 for timing. His book looking at how our attitudes to epidemics are dominated by wider social concerns is published just as another global disease panic has kicked off. For those fretting about swine flu, Dread would be useful bedtime reading, especially in providing some perspective to the seemingly annual cry that ‘this time, it’s the Big One’.  spiked

JoanneLovesScience says:

A wonderful book.  Great insights throughout the book.   Joanne

Andrew Robinson writes in The Lancet:

Dread is both reassuring and discomforting… Alcabes worries that germs, like genes, oversimplify disease, so that we underplay the importance of complex social conditions.  Lancet

At BMJ, Dr. Tom Jefferson writes:

Professor Alcabes’ woven tale makes several inter-related points. All are highly relevant today. BMJ

Seed Magazine writes:

Our species has an almost mythic fear of the uncontrolled spread of disease—plague—and its characterization as a killer of millions is certainly not without historical precedent. But Alcabes, a professor of Urban Public Health, deconstructs the epidemic as a social narrative; its rhetoric, he argues, has been used to ascribe meaning to class, race, risk, blame, and death. With its analysis of historical and modern epidemics, both real and imagined, Dread convinces that the fear can be worse than the disease. SEED

Business Standard (India) says:

Every other year, it seems, the world faces a new and unprecedented health crisis. This year it’s swine flu. Although relatively few have died of these emergent diseases, they loom very large in our imagination and daily life. Why so? Philip Alcabes, a professor of urban public health, plunges into history for context, showing, with lots of examples, that our reactions reflect our current prejudices and anxieties (foreigners, animals, the unknown) — so it has always been. Alcabes is a spirited and sceptical storyteller. Business Standard

In H5N1: News and Resources about Avian Flu, Crawford Killian writes:

Dread is a history of cultural responses to pandemics and epidemics, especially since the Black Death of the mid-14th century. Alcabes makes a very interesting point: Since at least the 14th century, disease outbreaks have stimulated the growth of the modern state. If the ungodly were provoking divinely sent plagues, then the state and church needed to persecute the impious and sinful….Fear of epidemics, like fear of terrorism, gave the state enormous leverage against its own people….So I strongly recommend that you read Dread.   H5N1

In The Tyee, Killian writes:

Dr. Alcabes provides a useful perspective. Yes, it’s a scandal that we don’t attack the endemic diseases with the energy we devote to “virtual” pandemics. Yes, it’s folly to ignore preventable deaths from accidents and violence. Yes, we worry about “risk” conditions at home while ignoring real diseases elsewhere. And he is certainly right that we have ignored the social context that gives bacteria and viruses their big opportunity.   The Tyee

The NY Post writes:

“A deeper answer to the question about why hype about epidemics doesn’t line up with the scale of damage has to do with fear and besides our dread of death, we are frightened by the prospect of social disruption,” Alcabes argues. His well detailed account lays out our historical obsessive fascination with epidemics.  NY Post

The Science Times says:

Dr. Alcabes takes a methodical tour of the terrain, from the leprosy of biblical times through the bubonic plague outbreaks of medieval and Renaissance Europe, cholera and tubeculosis in the 19th century, AIDS in the 20th.  Politics, religion and economic concerns shaped the public response to each, with feeble medical intervention generally trailing far behind.    NY Times

Harriet Washington, winner of the 2008 National Book Award for Medical Apartheid, writes about DREAD:

“Alcabes powerfully persuades that our understanding of the mass infectious disease springs largely from our psyches rather than our labs. But he does much more, tracing our slow and frequently backsliding evolution from gods, through mystic humours to climate, physical aberrations, xenophobia and pathogens as the roots of our epidemics— and our fears, which he shows to be invested with the inexorable lyricism of myth. The word “genius” has been debased by frequent use, but this is a work of undeniable genius in the most exalted sense. What Stephen Jay Gould did for natural history, Philip Alcabes has done for public health.” Full Comment

Helen Epstein, author of The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa, writes

“In this richly detailed and fascinating book, Alcabes explores the meaning of epidemics throughout history, and what our fears of them tell us about ourselves. Like Susan Sontag, he reminds us just how hard it is to see these diseases for what they are.”

Barry Glassner, Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California and author of The Gospel of Food and The Culture of Fear says:

“Exceptionally insightful and persuasively argued, Dread is at once a chronicle of the uses and (more often) abuses of the term epidemic and an antidote to the modern tendency to transmute fears of strangers and societal and personal failings into diseases.”

Howard Markel, MD, PhD, Author of When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed and Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892, writes:

“For centuries humans have feared classic contagions like cholera, tuberculosis, and plague, and for good reason. Today, we are only beginning to appreciate the “contagiousness” of obesity, autism, and even happiness. Such a rich and varied tapestry makes telling the history of epidemics a moving target. Fortunately, for those wanting to know how fear and perception have inspired our social responses to these public health crises, Philip Alcabes’s Dread hits the bulls-eye.”