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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Jack M Bernstein, MD (Wright State University)
Description: Viral Fitness flies over many of the pathogenic viruses which infect life forms on this planet. Its goal is to look at trends in viral infection that may lead to new and potentially lethal epidemics.
Purpose: When I started reading this book, I was unclear as to its purpose. The author mentions that the idea germinated at a party for Laurie Garrett, the author of the Coming Plague. This book reads somewhat the same as Ms. Garrett's book just not quite as keenly written. The objective is honorable, however I found Garrett's book both more informative and more enjoyable to read.
Audience: This is a book written for the lay person. It is much too simplistic for someone who is conversant with infectious pathogens, to the extent that there is some oversimplification which could lead to erroneous conclusions. The author, nevertheless, is certainly a world authority on matters such as this.
Features: As mentioned earlier, this is an overview of pathogenic organisms on our planet with the unifying theme being the involvement of viruses (for instance, cholera and its bacteriophage). The author wanders widely, covering influenza, plant viruses, West Nile, and HIV, before finally finishing with smallpox and SARS. It is readable although I might not have dealt with these agents in the order that the author did. If you want a feel for what is going on, this is a reasonable book. If you want a definitive text, it is lacking.
Assessment: In the preface to this book, the Coming Plague is mentioned. This book is similar, but, given the author's experiences and biases, seems more like a train of thought. When I started reading it, I found it somewhat frustrating, but, as I finished it, I felt that I had gleaned some new information from it (and I fancy myself a clinical virologist). For physicians, this is probably not a book I would recommend. For a lay person, it is a reasonable and informative read.