Saldmann, former administrator for the Hospitals of Paris, is an expert in food sanitation and nocosomial infections-those contracted in-hospital-and his primer on emerging diseases and everyday hygiene is an eye-popping look at the hazards around us. Fortunately, it's also efficient and practical (no doubt part of its popularity in Saldmann's native France), covering issues in the home, at work, on the street, in the garden and during travel in short, highly informative chapters. Among sound, practical advice on protecting oneself, he also questions the wisdom of putting elderly people, whose immune systems have weakened with age, into group living situations where diseases can spread like wildfire; describes the dangers of cosmetics (sharing lipstick, applying mascara), tattoos and piercings; documents diseases that jump continents literally overnight (e.g., SARS) and others that have spiked in virulence, like E. coli. Saldmann blames the success of antibiotics in the mid-20th century for society's careless attitude toward sanitation and personal hygiene, citing precautions that were routine in our great-grandparents' time. This is a guidebook worthy of attention from every parent, teacher, and medical worker, as well as anyone with a depressed immune system.
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As increasingly resistant microbial organisms are frequently discussed in the news, many of us look for reasonable ways to protect our health. Saldmann, a food sanitation specialist, recommends a return to the "three golden rules of hygiene": hand washing, cooking food thoroughly, and adequate refrigeration. In his brief book, a 2007 best seller in France, Saldmann provides, among other things, tips on food care, personal hygiene, tattoos, and improving indoor air. He describes the impact of recent epidemics and concludes with his thoughts on how to prepare for a possible pandemic. Although many of his suggestions are common sense or already covered in the popular literature, his easy style and practical advice may prove appealing for general readers. Since many of the entries are extremely brief, a bibliography or list of supplemental sources would have been useful for those wanting additional information. The lack of citations and the brevity will frustrate academic readers, who might find Nancy Tomes's highly regarded The Gospel of Germs more useful for a scholarly look at hygiene and society. A marginal purchase for public libraries.