Twenty-First Century Plague the Story of SARS by Thomas Abraham

     The news this winter has included stories related to influenza outbreaks and possibilities of pandemic spread of flu. If readers are curious as to how these diseases  grow and spread, please consider reading this very interesting and insightful book. The author Thomas Abraham focused on the primary outbreak of SARS in China in 2002.  He chronicled the outbreak and spread of this disease. He gives readers a look at how SARS evolved and  infected people in 31 countries around the globe.  Abraham also looks at how diseases such as SARS are fought not just on the scientific level but on the economic and political level too.

     Xw12_3Included in this fascinating book is information regarding the 1918 flu pandemic that took between 20 and 40 million lives in just twelve months. Abraham discusses how nations can prepare for disease outbreaks such as avian flu.  What I found so interesting is how the author explained the evolution of these types of diseases.  We hear in the news that avian flu must make the leap from infecting a species of animal to becoming capable of infecting humans. At some point the virus must mutate to use humans as carriers of the disease. Abraham explains to readers how these mutations can occur.

Twenty First Century Plague unfolds as a race against the clock detective story. It takes readers on the hunt for the cause of this virus from conspiracy theories of biological weapons to letters being written to the British medical journal Lancet suggesting SARS might have extra-terrestrial origins. What researchers uncovered was fascinating to me.  Ever heard of palm civets, barking deer, raccoon dogs and Chinese ferret badgers?  Readers will learn a lot about how diseases such as SARS and avian flu spread through exotic animal populations and can eventually make that precarious leap across species to wreak havoc on human populations.

     If you are a student looking for an interesting subject for a term paper, or a person concerned with the present state of public health, or just someone looking for a good read, Twenty-First Century Plague will fill the bill.

(Ginny Lewis, Information Services)

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