Title: Infectious Madness

Author: Harriet A. Washington 

Disjointed Agenda

It would have been nice if Washington could have managed to stick to ethical investigative journalism and perhaps kept to the topic at hand, the theory of how various pathogens may cause mental illness. It would have been a lofty goal because the topic itself is so vast. But Washington did a poor job of even trying. My one burning question is who is the true author of this book because it smells like someone sold out?

Deviating from the subject over and over, Washington seems to have multiple axes to grind such as her outrage over the pharmaceutical industry’s corporate power plays and their penchant for putting profits before health, denying many citizens of underprivileged countries to suffer some of the worst fates imaginable due to their better-than-average chances of contracting the most horrific diseases imaginable. She barely utters a word about the myriad of environmental issues that potentially cause these diseases while once again touting the imagined efficacy of non- existent vaccines that might not be made available to these populations even if they did exist. There are also plenty of US citizens who are also denied potential life-saving medications due to economic position or lack thereof and some of them are even white. None of what she expounds is news and her outcries had little to no place in this book, a book that is supposedly about pathogens that cause a neuro-psychiatric presentation, not about the groups of people denied healthcare and not about one size fits all vaccination to save the world from every medical bogeyman imaginable.

In regard to her vaccination as sure fire prevention for everything from measles and polio to Tourette’s and even Autism itself, one of the issues that absolutely needed to be included in her conversation of how certain pathogens can cause disease in some individuals but not others gives leverage to vaccines as a potential cause, not prevention of these illnesses. If an immune system can be negatively compromised by a vaccine, then it could be assumed that the failure of one’s immune system to resolve a viral or bacterial episode might result in the body continuing to make antibodies to an infection no longer present, resulting in an auto-immune attack that could take the form of many of the diseases she lists. If vaccines can harm a developing fetus and we should dispense with vaccinating all pregnant women yet protect those unborn children by vaccinating every single living human regardless of their circumstances, why is it that those same vaccines could not harm a newborn, toddler, or adult? This backward logic has to stop once and for all. Washington’s misconceptions and unfounded fears surrounding vaccines and how the immune system actually works along with her complete disregard over the fact that one size does not fit all does a real disservice to society.

Wait a minute, what is this book supposed to be about again? I forgot. The title is catchy but I cannot recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how it may be possible to catch mental illness, much like we catch a cold. There are far better sources available providing accurate information that hasn’t been skewed by unseen conflicts of interest. I recommend starting with what the objective scientific literature has to say. This book unfortunately will do little to advance research in this field.

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