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The Little Book of Pandemics    by Dr. Peter Moore order for
Little Book of Pandemics
by Peter Moore
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

What a cheery title, I thought - The Little Book of Pandemics, just the thing to give the family hypochondriac as a holiday gift (or perhaps best not!) In it, Dr. Peter Moore summarizes for us '50 of the world's most virulent plagues and infectious diseases' under the following disease categories - Community, Airborne, Sexually Transmitted, Food- and Water-borne, and Animal-borne. A list of sources is provided at the back of the book for those who wish to explore further.

The good doctor tells us in his Introduction how far we have come - in understanding of disease - from historical times, when people feared (without understanding) agents 'that swept invisibly across continents, devastating populations, and leaving families shattered and entire economies in tatters'. However, he also warns us that 'Our packed cities, linked by ever-faster systems of mass transport, are perfect breeding grounds for disease' and that germs quickly learn to 'duck and dodge' the chemical treatments we aim at them. He emphasizes 'the need for humble vigilance.'

Each of the 50 diseases covered is summarized with: agent; when first recorded, region, infectivity, severity, likelihood of dying from it, bio-weapon threat, origins, symptoms and effects, historical outbreaks, developments in treatment, physical symptoms (the latter shown on a diagram of a human body), and - in some cases, like Bird Flu - potential threat to civilization. They're all in here from the biggies like the Plague and Ebola to those most of us suffer from at some point like the Common Cold and Chickenpox. And then there are a few that I'd never heard of before, like Leishmaniasis (contracted from sand fly bites).

The back cover of this guide book to past, present and future medical threats tells us that 'The three greatest killers in human history have not been war, famine, or natural disaster. They have been influenza, Black Death, and AIDS.' Something to think about.

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