The Little Book of Pandemics: 50 of the World's Most Virulent Plagues and Infectious Diseases

The Little Book of Pandemics: 50 of the World's Most Virulent Plagues and Infectious Diseases

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by Peter Moore
     
 

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In the face of the anxiety about the recent H1N1 outbreaks, The Little Book of Pandemics puts it all into context. A concise and compelling insight into 50 of the most virulent and vicious plagues, pandemics, and infectious diseases currently known to medical science, this is your guidebook to diseases of the past and present (with some warnings about the

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Overview

In the face of the anxiety about the recent H1N1 outbreaks, The Little Book of Pandemics puts it all into context. A concise and compelling insight into 50 of the most virulent and vicious plagues, pandemics, and infectious diseases currently known to medical science, this is your guidebook to diseases of the past and present (with some warnings about the future). From outbreak and symptoms to the percentage chance of survival, everything you need to know is here.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781435115651
Publisher:
Sterling
Publication date:
09/24/2009
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Little Book of Pandemics


By Peter Moore
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008 Peter Moore
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061374210


Chapter One

Part Ones Around and About

Influenza

Agent: virus
Three types of influenza virus
(Family: Orthomyxoviridae)
First recorded: Hippocrates wrote about a major epidemic in 412 B.C.E.
Region: global

The influenza virus is a very simple biological particle in that it only contains eight genes, an instruction set so small that it cannot be described as being alive when it is floating freely in the air. However, like all viruses it comes to life when it invades a living cell and hijacks its biological machinery: in a matter of hours, one viral particle can dictate that the cell builds hundreds or thousands more new versions of itself.

Origins

For the recorded history of mankind, flu has normally caused only a low level of infection, but it occasionally breaks out and wreaks havoc. The good news about this virus is that most people become immune to it once they have encountered a particular strain. The bad news is that the virus evolves incredibly rapidly, and is constantly forming new strains. If a new strain is similar to one that has existed before, many people will fight it off, but on the occasions when there is a jump change—i.e. a rapidmutation in the virus—it can trigger a pandemic.

Symptoms and effects

If you think you have a "touch" of influenza, you probably don't. Flu hits hard. It will put you in bed for the best part of a week, and leave you weak for days after. As if that wasn't enough, if you get a bad bout you can end up suffering from depression for a further few days.

Historic outbreaks

Extreme outbreaks of flu occur about every 20 to 30 years. There was a massive pandemic in 1918 that killed somewhere around 40 million people; another severe outbreak killed between one and two million people in 1957; and yet another version killed some 700,000 people in 1968. Since then there has not been a major outbreak, but that means that the next one is getting closer.

Developments in treatment

In 1952 the World Health Organization set up a Global Influenza Surveillance Network, which consists of four key centers and 112 institutions located in 83 countries. The institutions collect and analyze samples, and ship any potential new strains to the centers. By monitoring which strains are circulating, experts make educated guesses about which pose the greatest threat in the near future. This information is sent to companies that manufacture vaccines, who then generate products that act against this specific threat. The vaccines offer a high level of protection, but the system only works as long as a new strain doesn't sneak up without warning. If a strain not covered by the vaccine starts to cause widespread disease, the vaccine is effectively useless.

A few anti-viral drugs are now making their way on to the market. Sadly, the rapidly evolving flu virus seems to be capable of side-stepping these with remarkable ease, taking the potency out of these newly hailed "wonder cures."



Continues...

Excerpted from Little Book of Pandemics by Peter Moore Copyright © 2008 by Peter Moore. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Dr. Peter Moore is a medical journalist and Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Bristol, UK. He has won numerous awards for his journalism, including the MJA Tony Thistlewaite Award for his book, Blood and Justice. He is the author of Superbugs/The New Killer Germs, now in its third edition.

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Little Book of Pandemics 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a biologist and maybe that's why, but I found this book very fun! It was informative, well arranged, and well written, but with little comic quarks to the text. I'd recommend for anyone interesting in microbiology or disease.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jackson4 More than 1 year ago
my 11 year old read this book and thought it was very very interesting