Had it not been for viruses, the U.S. and Canada might today be one country; the African slave trade may not have been as extensive; and the Spanish almost certainly wouldn't have conquered the Aztecs and other New World native peoples. In fact, viruses have affected world history more extensively than most of us can imagine. Viruses, Plagues, & History not only shows us what viruses are and how they work, but looks at what newer ones such as Ebola and HIV might mean to our future. Even more frightening, Oldstone discusses the influenza virus of 1918 to 1919--which may have killed as many as 50 million people worldwide and certainly helped England, France, and the U.S. defeat Germany in World War I--and wonders if it's due for a return visit. Granted, a book with a chapter titled "Mad Cow Disease and Englishmen: Spongiform Encephalopathies--Virus or Prion Disease?" isn't for everybody, but it's a fascinating for anyone interested in health and wellness and the medical future of our planet.
From Library Journal
The current interest in emerging diseases has led many virologists to write their own popular books on the subject. Many incorporate the entertaining if lurid detail popularized by Richard Preston's bestselling The Hot Zone (LJ 8/94). Some, like Frank Ryan in his Virus X (LJ 1/97), use accounts of emerging virus outbreaks as a lead-in to fascinating discussions on the ecology and evolution of viruses. Oldstone, who directs a laboratory of viral immunobiology at the Scripps Research Institute, takes a more traditional approach, intending to write in the spirit of Paul de Kruif's classic Microbe Hunters (1926). After a short introduction to the principles of virology and immunology, Oldstone describes the partial or total conquests of four major killers?smallpox, yellow fever, measles, and polio?then discusses old and emerging diseases that are serious threats?Lassa fever, Ebola, Hantavirus, AIDS, and influenza. Unfortunately, Oldstone's writing lacks de Kruif's prose style and engrossing detail; much, if not all, of his work reads like a rather terse textbook. Also of concern is Oldstone's tendency to ignore controversies or make unsupported statements that go against generally accepted scientific consensus. His competent but unexciting book is an optional choice for general science collections.?Marit MacArthur, Auraria Lib., Denver
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