cover image Outbreaks and Epidemics: Battling Infection from Measles to Coronavirus

Outbreaks and Epidemics: Battling Infection from Measles to Coronavirus

Meera Senthilingam. Icon, $15.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-78578-563-4

Health journalist Senthilingam debuts with a straightforward, helpful primer on understanding infectious disease spread and control. Beginning with terminology basics, she discusses how outbreak specialists decide to target a disease for control, elimination (as a threat), or eradication (erasing its presence in the population altogether). Senthilingam focuses on strategies for controlling spread and for quickly developing vaccines, and addresses at length the human factors that hamper these measures, including the overuse of antibiotics, which breeds antimicrobial resistance; the tendency of some patients not to complete protocols when they start to feel better; and the fear of vaccines, which in the U.S. and Europe has led to the reemergence of measles and in Pakistan and Afghanistan has interfered with the eradication of polio. Though brief references to Covid-19 appear throughout, Senthilingam concentrates on the disease’s predecessors. She covers ancient diseases still persistent in the undeveloped world, including leprosy, tuberculosis, and bubonic and pneumonic plague, and discusses zoonotic, or animal-spread, disease—insect-spread dengue, Zika, and Lyme; Ebola, thought to have been introduced to a wider population by an unknown infected animal; and influenza, transmitted by both birds and pigs. A lay audience currently mired in concern about Covid-19 but potentially uninformed about epidemics in general should find Senthilingam’s information-rich work both enlightening and accessible. (Apr.)