Wolfe makes clear that most bugs are harmless; some are even helpful. But his wide experience confronting killer diseases in...

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THE VIRAL STORM

THE DAWN OF A NEW PANDEMIC AGE

From a well-traveled virologist, an eloquent argument for why we need better ways to predict and thus prevent major disease outbreaks.

Wolfe, the CEO of Global Viral Forecasting, begins by describing the ubiquity of microbes, the most abundant biomass on earth. Viruses in particular can inhabit any cell type, making them the most diverse and flexible of organisms, frequently mutating and able to exchange genes with kin. Our ape ancestors picked up viruses from insect bites and from the animals they hunted, giving them a rich microbial repertoire. That would diminish, not only because the grasslands were less fertile ground, but because the pioneer groups were small. This evolutionary “bottleneck” resulted in the loss of some pathogens (the bugs either killed their hosts or the survivors became immune, leaving no one to infect). The advent of cooking would further reduce the repertoire. But then came animal domestication and farming, upping the repertoire as people in settled communities became targets for new microbe sources. Fast-forward to today’s hugely interconnected urbanized world and, you have the ingredients for a pandemic: a worldwide outbreak of disease spread from human to human. That happened with HIV, the result of two monkey viruses that combined in a chimpanzee, which was later eaten by hunters. It hasn’t happened yet with bird flu (no human to human spread), but it could. To forestall epidemic disasters, improved surveillance systems are under way, including Wolfe’s company, which is using the latest technologies to identify new disease bugs and track cases using rapid communication links. Most importantly, the company is establishing “sentinel” outposts at remote jungle sites where people still consume bushmeat or in other ways may be “the canaries in the coal mine.”

Wolfe makes clear that most bugs are harmless; some are even helpful. But his wide experience confronting killer diseases in Africa and Asia makes for important, graphic reading and underscores his passion for prevention.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9194-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

HEALING OUR VILLAGE

A SELF-CARE GUIDE TO DIABETES CONTROL

Self-help guide for diabetes sufferers, mostly in question-and-answer format, with an emphasis on helping racial and ethnic minority diabetics.

Coleman is a pharmacist with a doctorate in her specialty, Gavin a Ph.D. and M.D. Aside from acknowledgments and a foreword signed by Gavin alone, their voices and expertise are indistinguishable, offering lucid, simple solutions for diabetes patients. Gavin relates watching his great-grandmother endure debilitating pain as a result of diabetes while he visited her as a youngster. He remembers hearing adults mention that sugar killed her, and he wondered how something that tasted sweet could cause so much harm. As an adult, he realized that his great-grandmother's affliction could be controlled through treatment. The authors focus on Type 2 diabetes, the most common form in minority populations. An estimated 18.2 million Americans are diabetic, with perhaps 5 million unaware of their situation. About 11 percent of U.S. diabetics are African-American, and about 8 percent are Latino. The question-and-answer format begins with an overview section about diabetes, with an emphasis on risk factors. Section Two covers management of the disease, including nutrition, exercise, blood-testing, oral medications and insulin use. In addition, the authors continually recommend smoking cessation, as well as instructing patients on the readiness of self-treatment. Section Three explains the complications—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease—that could arise if the condition remains untreated or treated ineffectively. The questions in all of the sections are worded simply, and the answers are usually free of medical jargon. Though the sudden shifts in tone and voice are occasionally jarring, the writing remains clear enough to distill the facts. The real downside here, though: patronizing, laughable illustrations that degrade the overall product.

Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2004

ISBN: 0-9746948-0-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2010

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There's a clear and intelligent gadfly at work here, offering much food for thought through his outrage.

CANCER-GATE

HOW TO WIN THE LOSING CANCER WAR

An astute—and sadly revealing—collection of articles from the past 15 years covering a wide number of topics related to the state of cancer research in the United States.

While it's true that Epstein—a physician and professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine—is clearly distressed by the current situation regarding our nation's approach to seeking cures and causes of cancer, this is far from a screed or conspiracy theory. He and a small number of contributors explain clearly why they feel the cancer fight has been stymied from the beginning. Epstein suggests the elimination of two impediments immediately: blaming the victim and putting the emphasis on diagnosis and treatment instead of prevention. He further suggests that there ought to be a distance between research institutions and those who fund the research. Since that likely means state intervention, he would like to see that ideologically biased individuals are not put in positions of power, dispersing funds (as happened under the Reagan administration, with its closed-door sessions with industry executives); too often the economic and political strings are held by those with a conflict of interest, such as the makers of products with suspicions of carcinogenic properties, or those with a vested interest in selling drugs to cancer patients. He also suggests that groups like the American Cancer Society stop spending three-quarters of their massive annual outlay on administrative costs, and start working more closely with environmental and occupational groups. Finally, he addresses the potential threats from pre-menopausal mammography, and the food industry's use of growth hormones.

There's a clear and intelligent gadfly at work here, offering much food for thought through his outrage.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2005

ISBN: 0-89503-310-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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