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The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance [Paperback]

Laurie Garrett
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 1, 1995 0140250913 978-0140250916 Reprint
Unpurified drinking water. Improper use of antibiotics. Local warfare. Massive refugee migration. Changing social and environmental conditions around the world have fostered the spread of new and potentially devastating viruses and diseases—HIV, Lassa, Ebola, and others. Laurie Garrett takes you 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. She argues that it is not too late to take action to prevent the further onslaught of viruses and microbes, and offers possible solutions for a healthier future.

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The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance + The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story + The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story
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Editorial Reviews Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

Garrett probes the human impact on the environment and the resulting emergence of new and mutating deadly viruses.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140250913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140250916
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laurie Garrett is the only writer ever to have been awarded all three of the Big "Ps" of journalism: the Peabody, the Polk, and the Pulitzer.

LATEST BOOK: I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks, available exclusively as an e-book.

Her journalistic efforts at KPFA-FM radio in northern California garnered the 1977 George Foster Peabody broadcast journalism award, for a series called "Science Story." In 1996 Garrett received the Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the 1995 Ebola virus epidemic in Kikwit, Zaire. The following year she was awarded the George C. Polk award for a series of more than 30 articles she published in Newsday, documenting the collapse of health and rise of HIV, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and dozens of other diseases in the former Soviet countries. Her second Polk Award was given in recognition of the reporting in BETRAYAL OF TRUST: The Collapse of Global Public Health.

Laurie Garrett was in graduate school studying immunology when she started reporting, as a sideline, on Berkley radio station KPFA-FM. After a year of this hobby, including the co-production of a radio series, "Science Story," Garrett and colleague Adi Gevins were awarded the George Foster Peabody Award for Broadcasting, the highest such honor for radio. Garrett continued working at KPFA, in multiple jobs including management, reporting, documentary production, and disc jockey. She received multiple awards during this period, including the so-called "Major Award" in broadcasting from the Edwin Howard Armstrong Foundation.

In 1979 Garrett spent a year covering a variety of stories overseas, including the SALT-II nuclear disarmament negotiations between the US and USSR, the World Food Summit in Rome, civil war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the anti-apartheid activities in the African frontline states, and a long list of outbreaks and disease issues across sub-Saharan Africa. During this period she resided primarily in Lusaka, Zambia, reporting for a variety of news outlets, from Pacifica Radio to the BBC.

From 1980-88 Garrett worked as a Science Correspondent for National Public Radio, based first in San Francisco and then Los Angeles. Her work at NPR, which featured detailed coverage of the unfolding HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US and Africa, was honored with a long list of awards and recognition. Garrett began covering the AIDS epidemic in June 1981, and continuously chronicled the horrible spread of the disease and its toll for more than 20 years.

In mid-1988 Garrett left NPR to join the science writing and foreign desk staffs of Newsday, then the third largest daily newspaper in America. Garrett covered a diverse range of stories all over the world, including: the spread of HIV around Lake Victoria, plague in India, Chernobyl radiation illness in Ukraine, toxic waste in El Salvador, discovery of ancient tombs in the Egyptian desserts, and SARS in Beijing.

In 1996 Garrett was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism for her coverage of the 1995 Ebola virus epidemic in Zaire. In addition to the "three P's of Journalism" Garrett's work at Newsday was honored with four awards from the Overseas Press Club of America, and a long list of recognitions from a variety of professional journalism societies. In 2000 Garrett shared with the New York Times' Larry Altman the first Victor Cohn Award for Medical Science Reporting, from the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). Garrett served as President of NASW for two years while at Newsday.

Garrett was born in Los Angeles, a 5th generation Los Angeleno. Garrett is a proud product of public education, having attended public schools and universities in California. She graduated with honors in biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Garrett attended graduate school in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at UC Berkeley and did research at Stanford University in the laboratory of Dr. Leonard Herzenberg. Her PhD studies, mentored by Dr. Leon Wofsy, focused on measuring T cell responses to variable stimuli.

Garrett did not complete her PhD studies, as her reporting "hobby" in local radio proved far more compelling. Laurie Garrett never attended a school of journalism, though she served on the faculty of the Schools of Journalism at UC Berkeley (academic year 1997-98) and Columbia University (2001).

In academic year 1992-3 Garrett was a Fellow in the Harvard School of Public Health, where she learned a tremendous amount of health science that continues to guide her work today.

In 1995 Garrett received the University of California Alumni Achievement Award.
In 1998 Laurie Garrett was awarded a PhD by Illinois Wesleyan University, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
In 2002 Garrett was awarded a second PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell: Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
In 2007 the University of Minnesota named Laurie Garrett a member of the Delta Omega Society, an honorary public health society.
In 2009 Garrett was awarded a PhD from Georgetown University, Scientiae Doctorum, honoris causa.
In 2011 Laurie Garrett was named one of the "45 Greatest Alumni" of the University of California in Santa Cruz, on the 45th anniversary of the school's creation.

In 2004 Laurie Garrett left Newsday to join the think tank staff of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. She now runs the Council's Global Health Program, and serves as the Senior Fellow for Global Health. Garrett has written several reports and articles including: HIV and National Security: Where are the Links?, A Council Report (Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2005), 'The Next Pandemic?' (Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005), 'The Lessons of HIV/AIDS' (Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005), 'The Challenge of Global Health' (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2007), The Future of Foreign Assistance Amid Global Economic and Financial Crisis, A Council on Foreign Relations Action Plan (2009),and CastroCare in Crisis (Foreign Affairs July/August 2010).

AND FINALLY (in the first person)

I am an avid urban cyclist, using a 25 year old Specialized Crossroads for commuting and errands, and a custom titanium Merlin road bike for the real rides. I avidly support the greening of NYC, expansion of bike paths and lowering Brooklyn's carbon footprint.

For several years I was a partner with Havens Wines, located in the Napa Valley. The wines were magnificent, and being in the wine biz -- even merely as one of 14 partners --- was loads of fun. Sadly, we sold Havens Wines a few years ago, and the buyers couldn't make a go of it: Havens no longer exists. But I retain great admiration for skilled wine makers, and love of gourmet meals lubricated with fantastic wines and shared with great friends.

For more than 20 years I have been a strong supporter of the arts in New York, especially performances at BAM. As a BAM patron, I attend as many of the Brooklyn Academy of Music concerts, plays, dances and performances as my schedule will allow.

Brooklyn rules.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
131 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Microbes are no fun! May 18, 2000
I read this book two years ago and thought it was a great read. I just finished reading it again and have to say that I liked it even more the second time around. I should warn you however, that if you're looking for lighthearted summer reading that'll lull you into complacency and make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the world- stick to Oprah's book list. The only warm fuzzies you'll find in this very informative and well-written book are the microbes and viruses that make up the subject matter.
Laurie Garrett has done a masterful job of chronicling the spread of infectious diseases over the last 50 years. The book is divided into sections that give the history of the rise (and in one or two cases- the fall) of the major pandemics of this century. The chapter on AIDS is worth the price of the book alone and should be required reading for political science students. It's the perfect case study on how apathy, intolerance, ignorance and political infighting foster the spread of infectious diseases.
The underlying message of The Coming Plague is that we are at war with oodles and oodles of really small things whose survival instincts are much better than ours. In short- we're losing! These pernicious little buggers seem to be able to adapt much quicker than we can find new ways to kill them.
The Coming Plague reads like a detective story. And Garrett does a fine job of making it human and personal by giving us a peek into the lives of the scientists who are heading up the fight to solve the mysteries -and the victims who suffer from them.
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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Format:Library Binding
With recent news blurbs concerning the possible threat from strains of the West Nile virus in the northeastern part of the country this summer, the urgent importance of this book is quietly being reinforced. This important effort by journalist Laurie Garrett is a whopper; a long, carefully documented and quite readable text giving an overview of the worldwide efforts of the "insect fighters' at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of the U.S. Public Health Service and other agencies ranging from the U.N to state, university and local agencies to combat a panoply of both new biological agents like HIV, Ebola, and the West Nile virus as well as new and much more virulent and drug-resistant strains of old enemies like tuberculosis, bubonic plague, a number of venereal diseases, and complex new public health concerns like Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Ms Garrett's highly detailed and exhaustively documented thesis, written while on a graduate fellowship at Harvard, is both frightening and hard to ignore. She posits that through our environmental arrogance and stupidity, the general medical strategies of the western societies, and our consistent overuse of antibiotics, we are quickly losing the continuing fight to keep the general public of both the postindustrial nations and the less developed world safe from the wild panoply of microbiological agents that are out there in the environment, and we are, through our encroachment on wilderness areas never before populated by humans, unnecessarily introducing segments of the population to new microbiological agents who then find a vector or path into human habitation and resultant infection.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Advantage: Microbe February 10, 2001
"The Coming Plague" is 620 pages of densely-packed text on humanity's war against its deadliest enemies. Throughout the twentieth century and into the new millenium, we've given our microscopic enemies glorious new opportunities to exploit us, whether it be through war, slash-and-burn agriculture, or stagnant water in an air-conditioning system. Laurie Garrett has written a fascinating and frightening account of some of the battles we almost won (measles and polio) and some where we appear to be in full retreat (AIDS, drug-resistant tuberculosis). Her book is especially compulsive reading when she describes the individual skirmishes in the war, e.g. a journey into the African bush to identify and treat a disease that was killing 80% of its victims, or the discovery that cholera vibrio could live inside of algae and didn't require person-to-person transmission.
Even if you live in the middle of the Canadian tundra and have sworn off eating mollusks for the rest of your life, this book hammers home the fact that you're still not safe from what used to be called 'Third World diseases'. Even as I write this review, there is a woman in an isolation chamber of a hospital in Hampton, Ontario who is gravely ill with an unknown hemorrhagic fever. The doctors don't think its Ebola Fever, but they're not sure what it is, or whether any of the other passengers on the plane from Nigeria to Canada could also have been infected.
You can conclude (as I did) from "The Coming Plague" that many of us who expected to die from age-related conditions such as heart failure or cancer, may now well perish from infection. This book manages to combine the heroics of "Men against Death", the grim prophecy of "Silent Spring", and descriptions of several hair-raising, near-tragedies akin to the "Hot Zone". I highly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I thoroughly enjoyed the book
Interesting view on the virus world. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Published 13 days ago by KiwiLA
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! I read this years ago and gave ...
Great book! I read this years ago and gave it away. I wanted another for reference.
Published 14 days ago by L. Vale
This is a lengthy volume chronicling some of the most deadly infectious diseases in the 20th century. It is a gem among medical detective books and is well documented. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Carol A. Houde
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit dated but still a valid critical assessment of bacterial and...
I read this text shortly after it was published in the 90's and reread it last week. Many of Garrett's conclusions are as valid and problematic today as when published. Read more
Published 1 month ago by JWH13
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable in content and literary value
As a graduate of a program in Occupational Health in Public Health, I have had the opportunity to have read a large amount of books, but none comparable to this. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Karen Quagliano
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly Researched
I really wanted to like this book, and indeed, right up until I casually fact-checked a shocking number for an article I was writing, I was enjoying the depth of information about... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Cedarlila
5.0 out of 5 stars Chillingly accurate
Laurie Garrett takes us on a trip through recent plagues,describing them in detail made all the more chilling by her objectivity. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Shnuffy1
4.0 out of 5 stars The Coming Plague
Don't read this book before bedtime. You will never sleep. It catches your attention on ways that plagues could be carried through a population.
Published 7 months ago by Elf
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!
This book is a well of information. Fantastic stories of many smart and brave scientists, who fought deadly diseases, could really inspire you to join the still active battle with... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Kornelia
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, important topics, not extremely dry.
This is a good read..Also not the type of book that gets people talking to you on the plane....and for a scientific book, it is easier to get through than most, but I there are... Read more
Published 8 months ago by friday
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