The Deadly Truth

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It’s the disease that ravages respiratory systems, and hobbles economies. SARS, the mysterious virus that’s infected nearly 5000 people, so far, has cleared out airports, offices, and discos in China, and Toronto isn’t fairing much better.

Although the World Health Organization is hot on the case, don’t expect a cure or vaccine anytime soon. Despite advances in medical technology, health officials are still battling the last bug, and losing, so says one professor of medical history. Cancer and heart disease, let alone the 1918 influenza epidemic, still have experts searching for a diagnosis. Our faith in medicine is misplaced, he argues. Its role isn’t to conquer illness but make it more tolerable.


Gerald N. Grob, Professor of The History of Medicine Emeritus at Rutgers University, and author of “The Deadly Truth: A History of Disease in America.”