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The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett
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The Coming Plague (1994)

by Laurie Garrett

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Details the current state of affairs in mankind's endless war against disease. Notable not only for the heroes (the 'disease cowboys' who go out and get the necessary details when a strange new disease appears) but the numerous failures of health organizations in reacting to potential threats. Definitely explains the difference between doctors (who are front-line soldiers in this war) and health professionals (who are the strategists and logistics people). A frighteningly informative read. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Apr 4, 2014 |
Discusses the onset of emerging diseases in teh global stage today. ( )
  oldman | Sep 23, 2012 |
This is one of those books that is daunting and fascinating all at once. THE COMING PLAGUE contains over 600 pages of fine-print material about the major diseases that emerged in the 20th century, how they were investigated, and what worked to resolve the issue (if anything). The level of detail Garrett employed is quite exhausting; the notes section is about 100 pages, and the books totals 750-pages in all. I read this for novel research, and it took me a month to do it as I read other books at the same time. Yes, I skimmed, but it was a slow skim as I jotted notes on sticky tabs throughout.

The sections that intrigued me the most were machupo (which I hadn't even heard of before), ebola, and hantavirus. The book also contains several hundreds pages on HIV/AIDS and the "Thirdworldization" issues of the 1980s and early '90s. It was interesting to see this book, published in 1994, cite how dangerous it was for cows and other farm animals to be given excessive hormones and antibiotic treatments, and lo and behold in the past few years those issues are finally being addressed. The slowness of medical responses is what really appalled me. In many ways, the United States was more ready in the 1950s due to Cold War vigilance and the use of "cowboy" epidemiologists who were willing to muck through the jungles in Africa or Central America to search for scat. As THE COMING PLAGUE points out in the end, the World Health Organization didn't recognize the threat of AIDS until it had already spread to four continents. That's just plain scary.

It all made for a fascinating read, but I am quite thankful to be done with this book! ( )
  ladycato | Aug 12, 2011 |
A compelling, phenomenal book that explains the history and evolution of infectious diseases and mankind's attempts to adapt and defeat them. Garrett explains disease mechanisms in a frightening yet lucid way, in layman's language. The ordinary reader - one with no background in epidemiology - walks away understanding how viruses and bacteria spread, how the immune system fights them, how various drug therapies work, and how viruses and bacteria evolve to beat both immune systems and drug treatments. Garrett explains the urgency of a truly world-wide public health policy, and backs every single statement up with the clearest distillation of facts and research.

It will terrify you, if you have a lick of sense ... and it will make you want to start taking action, start writing your politicians, start asking your doctor questions. You may not fear contracting Mad Cow disease from your food, but you certainly will want to ensure all your vaccinations are up-to-date.
  lashru | Jul 14, 2010 |
I really enjoyed this book. It was ridiculously huge for a nonfiction, but I enjoyed (almost) every page of it. The book covers 3 aspects of disease: The recent history of deadly disease outbreaks such as Lassa Fever, Marburg/Ebola, and Yellow Fever; Current (as of 1994) outbreaks such as AIDS, Toxic Shock Syndrome, and Hantavirus; and the potential future of infectious diseases. The future is definitely the scariest. You would think that as technology advances the microbes would become less and less of a problem, but the book argues that with every technological advance we make, we wind up unleashing the microbes on ourselves. Blood transfusions, megacities, water treatment...heck, even antibiotics have actually strengthened the microbes as they become resistant to the drugs, rendering once benign illnesses untreatable. Laurie Garrett has definitely opened my eyes to the power of the microbes. Suddenly I don't feel so confident in humanities dominance of the planet.

Don't think that the book is all paranoid doomsaying though. While the predictions for the future of disease control can be disheartening, her chapters on humanities scientific advances can instill at least some confidence. The chapters on things like genetic engineering and WHO's attempts at world-wide microbe surveillance help make you think that not all is lost!

Overall, I found this book to be both compelling and very informative. The size might put some people off, but I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. ( )
2 vote Ape | Feb 16, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
It might seem churlish to complain about a book's thoroughness (especially a 750-page tome that was composed in longhand because the author, as she tells us in her acknowledgments, suffers from an occupational injury that prevents the use of a keyboard). Still, "The Coming Plague" covers an awful lot of ground, way too much for the casual reader. The obsession with detail -- dozens of bugs, hundreds of scientists and, by my count, 1,348 footnotes -- is as huge as Ms. Garrett's energy and enterprise. Her journalistic instincts are excellent. She cites the key articles, talks to the right researchers, focuses on the crucial scientific issues. Unfortunately, the book's flaws are huge, too.
 
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To the people of Bukoba, Lasaka, Dar es Salaam, and dozens of other African locales who so generously over the years have shared their lives and wisdom with an inquiring white Western woman. Consider this an down payment on an enormous debt.

Africa: Asante sana, Mwalimu.
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By the time my Uncle Bernard started his medical studies at the University of Chicago in 1932 he had already witnessed the great influenza pandemic of 1918-19.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140250913, Paperback)

Where's your next disease coming from? From anywhere in the world--from overflowing sewage in Cairo, from a war zone in Rwanda, from an energy-efficient office building in California, from a pig farm in China or North Carolina. "Preparedness demands understanding," writes Pulitzer-winning journalist Laurie Garrett, and in this precursor to Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health, she shows a clear understanding of the patterns lying beneath the new diseases in the headlines (AIDS, Lyme) and the old ones resurgent (tuberculosis, cholera). As the human population explodes, ecologies collapse and simplify, and disease organisms move into the gaps. As globalization continues, diseases can move from one country to another as fast as an airplane can fly.

While the human race battles itself ... the advantage moves to the microbes' court. They are our predators and they will be victorious if we, Homo sapiens, do not learn how to live in a rational global village that affords the microbes few opportunities.

Her picture is not entirely bleak. Epidemics grow when a disease outbreak is amplified--by contaminated water supplies, by shared needles, by recirculated air, by prostitution. And controlling the amplifiers of disease is within our power; it's a matter of money, people, and will. --Mary Ellen Curtin

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Unpurified drinking water, improper use of antibiotics, local warfare, massive refugee migration have contributed to changing social and environmental conditions around the world. These have fostered the spread of new and potentially devastating viruses and diseases : HIV, Lassa, Ebola, and others. The author takes the reader on a fifty year journey through the world's battles with microbes and examines the worldwide conditions that have culminated in recurrent outbreaks of newly discovered diseases, epidemics of diseases migrating to new areas, and mutated old diseases that are no longer curable.… (more)

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