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The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance Reprint Edition

163 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140250916
ISBN-10: 0140250913
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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140250913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140250916
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

158 of 163 people found the following review helpful By Chad Bagley on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on June 12, 2000
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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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By ealovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
"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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The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
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