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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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1,179196,832 (4.13)41
Recently added byFrazinray, photonegative, RCW, jblumberg, private library, JWeyenberg, sbalicki, Nero56
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» See also 41 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I've been working on this doorstopper for the better part of a year, I think. But totally worth the ride.

In successive chapters, Garrett describes in sometimes novelistic detail the various fights humans and microbes have been fighting, mainly in the second half of the 20th century. Starting with an outbreak of hemorragic fever in Bolivia in 1962, tracking our struggles through Marburg virus, yellow fever, meningitis, Legionaire's disease, Lassa fever and then Ebola - in 1976! - (and that only gets us to page 100), she meticulously details the personalities, difficulties, and outcomes of wave after wave of new or newly virulent disease in our time. Inevitably, the story gets out of Africa and South America and the Third world in general, and leads back to North America, hanta virus and AIDS.

But more than just report on this destruction, she tracks origins, causes, how our own hand works against our own survival. As we travel more, destroy more, warm our planet more, build antibiotic resistance more, mix genetic material more either deliberately or accidentally, the microscopic enemies of our lives get smarter, stronger, almost more knowing, and get under our defenses again and again.

I love reading about medicine, but after the heroic tales petered out and the science of mutations became the story, this book made me extremely uneasy. Talk of vectors and reservoirs doesn't disguise the fact that the world is getting ever more dangerous as we change it.

The 'trade paperback' clocks in at 622 pages before the index and the 100 pages of footnotes and references. Fascinating, scary, and now 20 years old - and still happening. ( )
  ffortsa | Apr 15, 2015 |
Read for UMBC BIOL 141H

I liked it well enough. not very technical at all, but I suppose she wanted it to be accessible. but honestly, it got very easy to confuse all the scientists and politicians as more and more people were added. they all felt rather 2-dimensional. but I didn't read this for character development, so I still liked it well enough. ( )
  IsaboeOfLumatere | Jan 14, 2015 |
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 |
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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 a 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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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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