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Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infectionsby Madeline Drexler
Synopses & Reviews
So you think modern medicine has the whole virus game figured out? Think again. And it?s not even a question of "if" we?ll be hit by some new and deadly disease — it?s "when."
The war on germs is being fought on many fronts — from the skirmishes with disease-carrying mosquitoes that cross oceans hidden away in airline wheel wells to the high-profile battle against terrorists wielding deadly bioweapons. Today?s bold headlines would have us believe that the biggest threat comes from bioterrorism. But don?t underestimate Mother Nature, perhaps the most savage bioterrorist of all. Assisted by the increasing ease with which people — and the germs they carry — move across international borders, she?s an effective force to be reckoned with, a key player on this battlefield. As author Madeline Drexler makes clear, we?d do best not to ignore her.
Human beings and the pathogens that attack them are crossing paths more and more frequently, particularly as modern life grows increasingly complex. Whatever the infectious agent may be, whether it?s pandemic flu, foodborne illness, a debilitating disease carried far and wide by biting insects, or some new microbial horror we have yet to detect, keen surveillance and rapid response are really the only weapons in our arsenal.
Secret Agents looks at today?s new and emerging infections — those that have increased in attack rate or geographic range, or threaten to do so — and tells the stories of scientists racing to catch up with invisible adversaries superior in both speed and guile. Each chapter focuses on a different threat: foodborne pathogens, antibiotic resistance, animals and insectborne diseases, pandemic influenza, infectious causes of chronic disease, and bioterrorism, including the latest information on the public health threats posed by anthrax and diseases such as smallpox.
Based in part on material collected from the Forum on Emerging Infections hosted by the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., Secret Agents is ultimately as engaging as it is disturbing. Drexler?s thorough survey of the field of infectious disease, supplemented by extensive interviews with today?s top researchers, yields a compelling portrait of a world engaged in a clandestine war.
Emerging infections are among the many secret ties that bind the world into an organic whole. We know that infectious disease is an inescapable part of life, but we need to begin thinking globally and acting locally if we are to avoid the menace of a catastrophic outbreak of some new plague. Secret Agents sounds a clear and compelling call to take up arms against the organic predators among us.
"In a volume written for the educated layman, Drexler does an admirable job of explaining the threats from our food supply, the overuse of antibiotics, exotic viruses such as Ebola, the woeful state of the world's public-health systems and bioterrorism....Drexler is a clear and concise writer who avoids sensationalism despite the nature of the subject. She is particularly good at drawing little portraits of the book's heroes, the scientists and medical workers who track and battle the new diseases." Cleveland Plain-Dealer
"Secret Agents skillfully captures the frontline experience in the battle between humans and deadly, ever-changing microbes. This book is hard to put down." Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., co-author of Living Terrors
"Like a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, Secret Agents is a panorama teeming with miniatures that make the blood run cold. An authoritative book for an anxious age." Patricia Thomas, author of Big Shot: Passion, Politics, and the Struggle for an AIDS Vaccine
Book News Annotation:
A Boston-based medical journalist explains how communicable diseases that have long plagued humans continue to evolve, and attempts to foil them. What is new is their association with chronic diseases and potential spread by bioterrorism. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
As timely as it is urgent, the well-researched book from veteran science journalist Madeline Drexler delivers a compelling report about today's most ominous infections disease threats. Focusing on a different danger in each chapter-from the looming risk of lethal influenza to in-depth information on the public health perils posed by bioterrorism-Drexler takes readers straight to the front lines, where scientists are racing to catch nearly invisible adversaries superior in speed and guile. Drawing on a powerful combination of fresh research and surprising history, she warns us that the most ceaselessly creative bioterrorist is still Mother Nature, whose microbial operatives are all around us, ready to ounce whenever conditions are right.
In the tradition of "The Coming Plague" comes "an authoritative, well-paced, vividly written book that will scare the pants off you" ("The New York Times Book Review").
About the Author
A must read. Drexler's chapters read like dispatches from a war. (The Baltimore Sun)
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