A book that couldn’t be more timely, providing an accessible introduction to epidemiology.

OUTBREAKS AND EPIDEMICS

BATTLING INFECTION FROM MEASLES TO CORONAVIRUS

For those panicked or puzzled by the current pandemic, a handy look at the evolution of infectious diseases and their cures.

Coronaviruses have been with us for a very long time, but the one that first captured the world’s attention emerged only two decades ago, when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome spread out of Hong Kong to 32 countries, eventually killing some 810 people over its five-month run. That seems a trifle against what global health journalis Senthilingam calls “a viral relative that would wreak greater havoc across the planet”: the current outbreak of COVID-19. Although the government of China has not been entirely transparent about the outbreak, it appears at this writing that SARS prepared health workers to quarantine and isolate whole cities to keep the disease from spreading, and the number of new cases there has begun to decline. Outside China, of course, COVID-19 has become a pandemic, “the word that invokes fear in almost everyone,” since pandemics are new diseases that require novel responses. It is no comfort to know that COVID-19 is but one of a roster of “emerging diseases” monitored lest they, too, become pandemics, including Ebola and Marburg viral diseases, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and even a “Disease X”—“meaning a completely new, previously unseen infectious disease, such as COVID–19 at the time of its emergence.” Though some have likened COVID-19 to the flu, there are few commonalities other than the fact that some populations—e.g., the immune-suppressed or the elderly—are more susceptible to being killed by both than other populations, as was witnessed in 2017-2018 with a flu that killed 61,000 people in the U.S. alone, leading Senthilingam to note that “it’s fair to say the harm caused by influenza is far greater than people realize.”

A book that couldn’t be more timely, providing an accessible introduction to epidemiology.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78578-563-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Icon Books

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

F*CK IT, I'LL START TOMORROW

The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.

“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4478-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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