The strange new disease SARS erupted apparently out of nowhere and has spread at an astonishing rate. Scary as SARS itself is, the disease is also a warning of many possible such outbreaks to come. Featuring the disturbing story of SARS--where it came from, what it is, and how to protect yourself from it--as well as those of many other recently evolved deadly scourges, The New Killer Diseases is a shocking call to arms.
All around us--in our homes, workplaces, and public spaces--bacteria and viruses are evolving at a feverish rate, and our best defenses against them are in danger of being overwhelmed. The threat posed by emerging infectious diseases is as formidable as any challenge the human race has ever faced, and the evolutionary scales may be tipping in favor of the microbes.
In The New Killer Diseases, a respected immunologist and a veteran science author introduce the vital facts the public must know about the astonishing range of killer microbes we are up against. From the SARS and West Nile viruses to mad cow and Ebola, thirty new deadly diseases have arisen since the 1970s, and twenty old scourges, such as plague and cholera, are reemerging. But the FDA only recently approved the first new type of antibiotic in thirty-four years, and vaccines for many of the most lethal viruses are a long way from development. In addition, researchers have only lately discovered that bacteria have been swapping resistance genes--genes that help them evade the drugs meant to kill them--and are evolving new mechanisms to fight off even our best drugs at a startling pace.
Featuring many remarkable stories of people who have contracted bizarre new afflictions, including that of the doctor who first diagnosed SARS and then died from it, The New Killer Diseases empowers readers by revealing in a gripping, detailed fashion the way these new diseases manifest themselves, the symptoms to watch out for, and how to get a correct diagnosis in time. The book also goes to the front lines of the war being waged by researchers and medical professionals across the country, profiling the pioneers who are leading the fight and introducing the latest scientific developments, from new genetic techniques to promising drug programs, which may allow us to beat back the microbe menace.
The New Killer Diseases arms us with the knowledge to protect ourselves and our families, leaving us alert and fully informed about the troubling extent of the formidable threat we face.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
August 23, 2004
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The New Killer Diseases by Elinor Levy
The story of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome)--why the virus spread so rapidly, and how the international community responded--is a powerful, cautionary tale about the thorny challenges we must grapple with as we confront a growing number of infectious microbes that are evolving at an alarming rate. In the chapters that follow, we explore these pressing issues, introducing all the vital information the public needs to know about how best to protect ourselves against these diseases, as well as measures the medical community and our government should be taking to fight them. SARS has unfortunately established a significant foothold around the world, and we must expect that it will continue to spread--though less rapidly--and also to evolve, just as West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and other recently emerged scourges have done. SARS is one of the fastest spreading and most virulent new diseases the world had seen in some time. Yet we might well face an even more deadly foe before long, and we must learn the lessons the SARS saga holds for us.
The good news witnessed during the SARS outbreak is that the world community has made great progress in its ability to track and combat emerging diseases. But the outbreak also brought into stark relief a number of weaknesses in our defenses and a set of tough questions we must address. When a new disease has broken out, can we depend on all nations to share information readily and to take the necessary steps to limit the spread? What are the most effective means of containing a new disease, and what are the acceptable limits of government control? In the case of SARS, did the World Health Organization and national health authorities act fast enough to warn people of the danger, or did they go too far in some countries, provoking unnecessary panic? What social costs are we willing to pay in order to respond with the vigilance required? Do we need more disease detection at airports and other points of entry, or tougher quarantine laws? What will the ripple effects on the world economy be? And most fundamentally, how can we best determine that a new disease has appeared, and why it spreads so much more rapidly in one locale versus another?
The World Health Organization (WHO) sounded the SARS alarm on March 15, 2003, declaring the disease a worldwide health threat because it was spreading so far, so fast. In less than seven days after the first case had been identified in Hong Kong, dozens of people, many of them health care workers, had come down with it there, and patients had also been diagnosed with SARS in Hanoi, Vietnam, and in Toronto, Canada. The fact that the disease had made it all the way to North America so fast alerted the WHO that this outbreak might well become a global epidemic.
The first symptoms of the disease were fever and dry cough, and in some people muscle aches, sore throat, and diarrhea. These symptoms mimic those from influenza or the common cold, so at first patients were unaware of how serious their illness was, and many didn't go to see a doctor. However, SARS quickly progressed to pneumonia in some patients, or caused such difficulty in breathing that doctors had to hook some up to mechanical ventilators. Those who succumbed were killed when, as in other pneumonias, the heart or other organs failed due to the stress of not getting sufficient oxygen.
More than any other recent disease, SARS traveled like wildfire because of "superspreaders," people infected with a disease who pass it on to an inordinate number of others. In Singapore, for example, one young woman who checked into a hospital after returning from Hong Kong infected twenty nurses and patients, while two other young women who had also come back did not pass on the germ to anyone. Evidence for superspreaders is rare in history. Occasional AIDS patients and TB carriers may have fit this label, and certain people exposed to any ailment such as flu are more contagious than others, but the SARS superspreaders stood out as flagrant examples. Ironically, it was the unusual spread of SARS from a single patient to many of that same person's doctors and nurses that first alerted the medical community this disease was different from other pneumonias. Indeed, it was the stunning specter of large numbers of hospital workers falling gravely ill in several of the treatment centers where patients were being examined that prompted the WHO to issue a global warning.
As of early May it was still unclear if the superspreaders were somehow different from other patients, or if they were just at the bad end of a spectrum of infectivity. They are a topic of great interest, but little is known yet. Do they have a differently mutated form of the virus?