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Sunday Book Reviews–Pandemics

Sunday Book Reviews–Pandemics


Pandemics are a periodic feature of human life on Spaceship Earth. The Black Death, the Spanish Influenza, H1N1, H5N1, Ebola–they’ve all taken aim at humans at one time or another. So with the encroachment of the Zika virus onto American shores, it’s time to read up on the threat. Here are a sample of books that will help you understand the pandemic phenomenon better.

The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garrett

Based on extensive interviews with leading experts in virology, molecular biology, disease ecology and medicine, as well as field research in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe, Central America and the United States, The Coming Plague takes readers from the savannas of eastern Bolivia to the rain forests of northern Zaire on a harrowing, fifty year journey through our battles with the microbes, and tells us what must be done to prevent the coming plague. (Review excerpt courtesy of Amazon.com)

Fevered: The Coming Chaos of Climate Change--and What a Hotter Planet Means for Our Health by Linda Marsa

From spiraling rates of asthma and allergies and spikes in heatstroke-related deaths to swarms of invasive insects carrying diseases like dengue or West Nile and increases in heart and lung disease and cancer, the effect of rising temperatures on human health will be far-reaching, and is more imminent than we think.

Award-winning journalist Linda Marsa blends compelling narrative with cutting-edge science to explore the changes in Earth’s increasingly fragile support system and provide a blueprint–a “medical Manhattan Project”–detailing what we need to do to protect ourselves from this imminent medical meltdown. In the tradition of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Marsa sounds the alarm on a subject that has largely been ignored by governments and policy makers, and persuasively argues why preparedness for the health effects of climate change is the most critical issue affecting our survival in the coming century. (Review excerpt courtesy of Amazon.com)

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It by Gina Kolata

In 1918, the Great Flu Epidemic felled the young and healthy virtually overnight. An estimated forty million people died as the epidemic raged. Children were left orphaned and families were devastated. As many American soldiers were killed by the 1918 flu as were killed in battle during World War I. And no area of the globe was safe. Eskimos living in remote outposts in the frozen tundra were sickened and killed by the flu in such numbers that entire villages were wiped out.

Scientists have recently rediscovered shards of the flu virus frozen in Alaska and preserved in scraps of tissue in a government warehouse. Gina Kolata, an acclaimed reporter for The New York Times, unravels the mystery of this lethal virus with the high drama of a great adventure story. Delving into the history of the flu and previous epidemics, detailing the science and the latest understanding of this mortal disease, Kolata addresses the prospects for a great epidemic recurring, and, most important, what can be done to prevent it. (Review excerpt courtesy of Amazon.com)

Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know by Peter C. Doherty

Peter Doherty, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells, offers an essential guide to one of the truly life-or-death issues of our age. In concise, question-and-answer format, he explains the causes of pandemics, how they can be counteracted with vaccines and drugs, and how we can better prepare for them in the future. Doherty notes that the term pandemic refers not to a diseases severity but to its ability to spread rapidly over a wide geographical area. Extremely lethal pathogens are usually quickly identified and confined. Nevertheless, the rise of high-speed transportation networks and the globalization of trade and travel have radically accelerated the spread of diseases. A traveler from Africa arrived in New York in 1999 carrying the West Nile virus; one mosquito bite later, it was loose in the ecosystem. (Review excerpt courtesy of Amazon.com.)

There is one and only one best tool for prevention of health disasters such as pandemics, and that’s an educated populace. In this, the EDM field, along with health professionals everywhere, must lead by example. So please learn what there is to learn about how to keep your public safe, and DO share what you’ve learned with anyone and everyone who will listen. Lives will be saved, and in the bottom line, that’s what it’s all about.

(Note: EDM Digest does not endorse Amazon.com)

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