Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Book Report- Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why We Fall For Them by Seema Yasmin

Melinda Parson

Book Report

August 3rd, 2021

    Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why we Fall For Them by Seema Yasmin is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. A brief summary of Seema’s book is that she was a young doctor in London, when she realized the skepticism many people have in our medical professionals, and this is due to stories being passed along by people to create this mistrust. She went on to work for The Epidemic Intelligence Service at the CDC (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) and then went on to fill her role as a public health translator- to debunk myths about viruses and how they spread, and this was occurring during the Ebola outbreak in Dallas. Medical Myths and Pseudoscience created by people telling and believing stories had created a hysteria in the United States and it was Seema’s job to help calm the masses down.

    Personally I believe this was the fire behind her writing this book. Her introduction to each chapter, which go into the, “stories (what we remember as humans) from medical myths about vaccines and chemtrails, to conspiracy theories about nefarious governments and unscrupulous scientists,” (Yasmin, p.25). Was extremely powerful. It leads the reader to be very interested in three questions she leaves us with before breaking off into each separate chapter, which discuss topics from baby powder, to diet pills, to ovarian cancer: “why do we believe what we believe, why don’t facts extinguish falsehoods, and what is a fact anyway?” (Yasmin, p.25).

     My favorite chapter of this book was called, “Is it dangerous to be pregnant in America?” (Yasmin, p.147). There were many fascinating chapters, but this one seriously peaked my interest, as I want to have children of my own one day. What I learned from this chapter however, is horrific. In the United States- from the year 2000 to 2013, maternal mortality has increased by 27%. Whereas many other countries worldwide are having decreased mortality rates, ours here in America has increased by nearly 30%. This is scary to think about, and the reasoning behind it could be our lack of protocols post delivery and during delivery. For instance Great Britain has a national protocol to check for hemorrhaging post birth, where the United States does not. Another reason for rising maternal mortality is the interventions taking place during the birthing process, like c-sections, which have doubled for unnecessary reasons over the last ten years. Another unnecessary intervention is induction of contractions prior to the birthing process, which can lead to c-sections. However, the most horrifying fact of this chapter was that black women in America are 3-4 times more likely to die from giving birth than white americans. This comes from black women's concerns being ignored by healthcare workers, poverty, lack of insurance after 60 days post birth, drug overdose, and more: which all lead back to one word- inequality. It was extremely eye opening and made me want to be able to help find ways to prevent these outcomes for pregnant women in America.

A lot of the chapters in the book Viral BS relate back to our class and what we have covered because people believe in stories. The human brain processes information at an incredible rate, but just because we are able to do so does not mean we do so sensibly. Seema presents the fact that most of us are more afraid to fly in a plane than travel by car, however we are more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash. That is because stories- like one where an airplane falls out of the sky is more appealing to our brains. Stories with suspense like this allow our brains to release a hormone called oxytocin, which I remember hearing about in the Ted Talk presentation by Michael Shermer. Our faith in stories correlates directly with pseudoscience itself.

Attached at the bottom of this paper I have included a really cool Ted Talk presented by the intelligent and wonderful Seema Yasmin herself discussing her experiences with the Ebola outbreak in Dallas, which she discussed in the introduction of her book. It is super interesting and I highly recommend taking a look at it, as it ties in with the overall topic of this book which is storytelling that leads to skepticism; what is real and what is not real? This book really sparked my interest in many topics, such as the covid-19 vaccine. Many people are skeptical of the vaccine because of stories being told about it like the fact that it is the only vaccine ever created that changes our genetic makeup. Is this fact or not? It would be really interesting to hear Seema Yasmin’s opinion on the covid-19 vaccine. Hopefully she can explain the facts behind the vaccine to all of us soon.

Ted Talk By Seema:

Works cited:
Yasmin, S. (2021). Viral bs: Medical myths and why we fall for them. Johns Hopkins University Press. 

No comments:

Post a Comment