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Interweaving history, original reportage, and personal narrative, Pandemic explores the origin of epidemics, drawing parallels between the story of cholera - one of history's most disruptive and deadly pathogens - and the new pathogens that stalk humankind today, from Ebola and avian influenza to drug-resistant superbugs.
More than 300 infectious diseases have emerged or reemerged in new territory during the past 50 years, and 90 percent of epidemiologists expect that one of them will cause a disruptive, deadly pandemic sometime in the next two generations.
To reveal how that might happen, Sonia Shah tracks each stage of cholera's dramatic journey from harmless microbe to world-changing pandemic, from its 1817 emergence in the South Asian hinterlands to its rapid dispersal across the 19th-century world and its latest beachhead in Haiti. She reports on the pathogens following in cholera's footsteps, from the MRSA bacterium that besieges her own family to the never-before-seen killers emerging from China's wet markets, the surgical wards of New Delhi, the slums of Port-au-Prince, and the suburban backyards of the East Coast.
By delving into the convoluted science, strange politics, and checkered history of one of the world's deadliest diseases, Pandemic reveals what the next epidemic might look like - and what we can do to prevent it.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Neuron on 08-29-16
Interesting but not engaging
I find predators fascinating. Especially those predators that eat us from the inside, which is the topic of this book. I had hoped for more of what I got when I read David Quammen’s excellent book “Spillover” which focuses on microorganisms that jump from one species to humans. Such zoonoses tend to be especially difficult to eradicate because even if we manage to eliminate the disease in humans, it can jump over again from the reservoir. This book, unfortunately, did not reach the same level as Spillover, far from it actually. It was informative, but I never felt very excited when I picked up the book. It was more like listening to a mediocre university teacher. It felt a bit flat and encyclopedic, and it lacked a clear narrative.
The book describes some past and present pandemics, including HIV, SARS, Ebola and influenza. However, the author keeps returning to is Cholera. Why is Cholera interesting you may ask? Because it is a pandemic that has gone endemic, meaning it is constantly present in the human population and health organisations have, to some extent, stopped trying to eradicate it. This is despite the fact that, without medication (clean water), there is a 50/50 chance of being killed by Cholera. This puts Cholera on par with Ebola. Indeed, the message that the author tries to convey is that when we think of future pandemics we should think Cholera, not Ebola. The big killers in the world today are the pandemics that go “under the radar” - like Cholera but also influenza. I think that this was a valid and important point, and there is already one clear candidate for what might be the future Cholera, namely MRSA (bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics).
So all in all, there is definitively some interesting information in this book, and it does reach some interesting conclusions. But unfortunately, the book is not well organized, and the writing is not very engaging. Simply put, there are better alternatives.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful