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The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 15, 2005
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In The Monster at Our Door, the first book to sound this alarm, our foremost urban and environmental critic reconstructs the scientific and political history of this viral apocalypse in the making, exposing the central roles played by burgeoning slums, the agribusiness and fast-food industries, and corrupt governments. Mike Davis tracks the avian flu crisis as the virus moves west and the world remains woefully unprepared to contain it. With drug companies unwilling to invest inessential vaccines, severe shortages persist, a scenario Davis compares to the sinking Titanic: there are virtually no lifesaving resources available to the poor, and precious few for the rich, too.
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But somehow after the prospect of nuclear war, then nuclear winter, Hong Kong flu, then Global Warming, AIDS, Ebola and so on you get just a bit jaded.
First the bad news. Avian Flu is a killer. The 1918 flu pandemic killed about 2.5% of the people it infected. This new one seems to kill about 50% (this book says two out of every three) of the people that get infected. It is rapidly spreading. This week there were cases reported in Turkey, right on the threshold of Europe (Birds do fly around a lot).
Second, the good news. In order for the virus to really be deadly to large numbers of people it has to mutate to make it capable of being transmitted from human to human instead of just bird to human as it is now. When it mutates it isn't as likely to be as deadly as it is now. A virus only has so much ability to carry things around. If it develops a 'skin' tough enough to travel by air, it will likely lose some of its deadlyness. Why? Because of all the flu's around this is about the worst. When it mutates, the skin is going to take more virus stuff, and some of that comes from the deadly stuff. Ebola has a higher mortality than Avian flu, the virus can't live outside of body fluids. Still at 50% mortality for Avian Flu, even if it goes to 5%, that's still worse than the 1918 variety. Another good point is that all of the governments around the world from Viet Nam to the UN are concentrating on the problem It's going to be tracked very carefully. As soon as an airborne variety mutates, a vaccine will be developed on an emergency basis.
Is there a risk -- absolutely. It it an emergency -- not yet. Is the book worth reading, absolutely, even if for no other reason than to see how our Government operates when faced with problems like this.
Davis reports that RNA viruses evolve up to millions-fold faster than their our antibody sources. One key point is that the co-infection of a host by two different subtypes can result in reassortment of constituent genes, and a new, more virulent strain.
A second key point is that starvation, malaria, and coo-infections act as flu impact multipliers - thus, Asia, Africa, and Latin America are particularly vulnerable.
Davis also summarizes the failure of recent "market-solutions" to the flu problem. Vaccine producers waited until demand strengthened in '57, resulting in availability that was generally too late and a total of about 80,000 U.S. deaths. This happened again in '68, and about 34,000 deaths followed. Another serious problem with past market-based solutions is that they failed to focus on those most vulnerable - elderly, asthmatics, and pregnant women - often corporations bought up the supply to give to their relatively healthy workers.
Still another key point brought out by Davis is the likely success of isolation and quarantine in a slow-moving virus (eg. SARS), vs. H5N1 flu. SARS has a five-day incubation period and only becomes contagious well after the onset of obvious fever and dry coughing. Infectiousness and sickness with other viruses (eg. HIV), however, do not coincide - HIV can be contagious for years without symptoms being present. Further, pandemic flu spreads much more easily than SARS.Read more ›
Influenzas are divided into three major categories. Types B & C are relatively mild, leading to the common cold, or, at worst, the winter flu. But Type A is the unpredictable, and lethal, strain that is fully entrenched among the bird population of East Asia. It is very easy for the disease to jump from migratory birds, to ducks, to chickens, to swans and egrets, and back again, mutating along the way. Until now, the human deaths have come from direct contact with infected birds. But the time is coming when that last mutation will click into place, causing it to jump from person to person. A worldwide flu pandemic, with a death toll in the hundreds of millions, is, as one researcher put it, "late."
What is America doing to prepare for the coming pandemic? Not much. Industrial chicken farms, with millions of chickens crowded into one building, are a wonderful breeding ground for diseases of all sorts, not just bird flu. Remember SARS from a couple of years ago? Among the reasons why it was contained is that the cities where it happened, Toronto and Hong Kong, are modern cities with modern health care systems. Imagine if SARS had shown up somewhere in Africa, with a much less modern health care system.
The major drug companies have opposed moves to allow other countries to make cheap copies of flu vaccines, even though there are nowhere near enough doses of vaccines even for first responders, out of concern for their corporate bottom line.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this a long time ago, but from what I remember it was very good and frightening to think about what might happen to all of us if a really big health crisis arose....Published 6 months ago by elizabeth
The author provides a good introduction to the history of recent avian flus for the and the dangers they currently pose in simple understandable terms accessable to the layman. Read morePublished on May 8, 2010 by Yoda
I ordered this book for a class and it was in perfect condition and at a great price! I would definitely recommend it.Published on March 22, 2010 by Anna Z
Awesome book. very well written & informative, well researched. It was recommended to me by an immunologist.Published on August 3, 2006 by Renee A. Wilterding
I just finished this book en route from a conference in New Mexico, where I gave a presentation on avian influenza, to my home in Tallahassee.
Mr. Read more
The free market approach to procuring vaccine when signs of epidemics of Influenza A arise has been disastrous, Davis shows. In the U.S. Read morePublished on March 8, 2006 by Chris
He's kind of into it, isn't he? And that's not even considering the scary picture of the rooster on the front cover of his new book, MONSTER AT THE DOOR. Read morePublished on February 14, 2006 by Kevin Killian
With avian flu so much in the news - and spreading around the world - it's important to run, don't walk, to pick up a copy of The Monster At Our Door: The Global Threat Of Avian... Read morePublished on January 6, 2006 by Midwest Book Review
`The Monster at Our Door' is distressing, engaging and a well researched book. Unapologetically, this book shakes one up, and creates anxiety Plague, epidemic, pandemic,... Read morePublished on December 3, 2005 by fdoamerica