Book Review - The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett
You want to be truly frightened about your health? Read The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases In A World Out Of Balance by Laurie Garrett. A friend loaned me his copy of this book after I had read a book about the flu epidemic in the early 1900's. This book, written in 1994, covers a number of diseases from all over the world, as well as the stories of the individuals who constantly risk their lives to combat the deadly viruses.
Although the book is over 700 pages and the information is over a decade old, it's still a compelling read. The stories of the CDC doctors who fought bureaucracy and ignorance are inspiring. To go into countries and cultures where the per capita health care expense is $2 and try to conduct research is mind-boggling. In many of the stories, every common health care practice we take for granted is nonexistent. Syringes are reused without sterilization 100's of times each day as it's the only needle they have. Highly contagious cases are placed in the same room as common injuries, and soon everyone is infected and dying. And logistically, there's no way to prevent any of this. Garrett tells of whole countries where the majority of the inhabitants are infected with diseases like AIDS, and the numbers go nowhere but up. She does an excellent job of telling the stories of how diseases like Ebola, Marberg, and the hanta virus outbreak started, were researched, and how they are currently fought. Even more frightening is learning how quickly these viruses develop resistance to the common drugs used to treat them, sometimes in as little as one generation of the outbreak. And as the treatment choices become fewer and more expensive, the outlook becomes more grim for both third-world countries and our own system.
The passage of time hasn't made the picture any brighter, and many of the views put forth in the book are still well on their way to fulfillment. After reading this book, it's easy to understand how such diseases like SARS and avian bird influenza strike fear into the medical establishment. It's a wonder we're not all dead already.