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The coming plague


Recently I read The Coming Plague, by Laurie Garret. This is a non-fiction book, it provides a history of diseases in the past 50 years, in particular how the violent changes introduced in the environment and local ecologies (due to different factors such as World War 2, the expansion of agriculture, new pesticidies, new antibiotics) have accelerated the emergence of new and more virulent germs. She also talks about previous plagues, such as the Influenza epidemic of 1918 and the Plague in Europe in medieval times.

The book is not only good because of what it describes from the past, but from what it says about the future. By tracing the causes for the appearance of a new disease (of which we've had quite a few in the last half-century) she describes a pattern of emergence of new epidemics and the perils of half-baked (though possibly well-intentioned) interventions to "eradicate" certain diseases, since those efforts can backfire and expand the epidemic even more, in the process making the bug resistant to treatment, as it was the case with Malaria in the 60's and 70's. Despite being published in the mid-90's it hasn't dated at all. It also contains tons of references for further reading.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 13 2002 at 9:26 AM

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