Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake Haiti


Product Details

ILR Press
Publish Date
6.3 X 1.0 X 9.2 inches | 1.2 pounds

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About the Author

Ralph R. Frerichs is Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology at UCLA.


"Deadly River tells two fascinating stories. One is about epidemiological and molecular biology detective work. This work justified the growing certainty that defective United Nations procedures had allowed Nepalese peacekeepers to start a devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti. The second story is about how the UN, the WHO, elements of the Haitian government, and the CDC did their best to prevent these facts from coming to light. They told themselves that they did this to serve what they thought was the greater public good. They pushed forward scientists with an academic ax to grind who had theories congenial to their agenda. We are used to industrial interests 'manufacturing doubt' about 'inconvenient truths.' This second story shows that governments do it as well."

--Dr. Raymond Richard Neutra, retired chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control, California Department of Public Health

"Deadly River tells the story of how the lethal disease cholera found its way from the high valleys of the Himalayas to the tropical landscapes of Haiti, months after the devastating 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake. This knowledge didn't come easy but was acquired through the dogged efforts of many investigators (a dedicated French epidemiologist, international infectious disease experts, molecular biologists, and journalists) all of whom were focused on finding the truth rather than accepting speculation or unproven theories. Ralph R. Frerichs's book is a fascinating read that also provides many insights into the strengths and weaknesses of human nature--curiosity, skepticism, stubbornness, ignorance, pride, denial, deception--all framed by a tragic event that has changed the lives of millions of impoverished people."

--John J. Mekalanos, Harvard Medical School

"It is beyond the scope of the present report to recount the analyses and conclusions of the various studies, but this task has been undertaken systematically in [Deadly River]. Its author, Ralph R. Frerichs, is Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology at UCLA and the book provides a painstaking and even-handed assessment of the scientific debates that have taken place. For present purposes, it must suffice to note that the book concludes that the peacekeepers were responsible for bringing cholera. In doing so, it systematically vindicates the conclusions reached by one of the first international experts on cholera to investigate the outbreak in Haiti, Dr. Renaud Piarroux. It also deplores what it describes as a 'misinformation campaign to protect the UN and the peacekeeping program.'"

--Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and Professor of International Law, New York University, Report to the United Nations General Assembly (A/71/367, August 26, 2016)

"All public health students should read this book for two reasons: first, for the in-depth story of the scientific investigation of the source of the epidemic; and second, for the story of the political resistance and barriers, both powerful and subtle, that Piarroux encountered.... The description of Piarroux's investigation is fascinating."

--Laura Price "International Quarterly of Community Health Education "

"The CDC discouraged journalists from asking about the epidemic's origin, telling them that pinpointing the source was 'not productive, ' 'not central, ' and would likely never happen. Its epidemiologists did provide a key detail early on, when they identified the strain in Haiti as having a recent South Asian origin--meaning it could have come from Nepal and not from South America, Africa, or anywhere else cholera was circulating at the time. The CDC refused to take environmental samples from around the [UN Peacekeepers] base or test the soldiers during the small window when doing either would have been worthwhile. All of this detailed in a damning new book by Ralph R. Frerichs called Deadly River.."

--Jonathan M. Katz "Slate "

"Frerichs, a retired epidemiologist and professor emeritus of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, has written a damning account of the political and health professional response to the cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in October 2010... He does so from an epidemiologist's perspective and with a clear focus on the Haiti case. Yet, his account is written for and accessible to a wider readership and also highly relevant for students of global (health) politics."

--Tine Hanrieder, Dr rer pol, University of Bremen "Cambridge Review of International Affairs "

"Ralph Frerichs's Deadly River is, in no small part, an object lesson on the manner in which maps make sense of chaos in the midst of complex world events.... Frerichs's focus, and indeed his passion, lies with the microbial world and its periodic attacks on humankind."

--cartographic perspectives