Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections

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9780309076388: Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections
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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 diseaseâ€"it’s “when.â€

The war on germs is being fought on many frontsâ€"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 peopleâ€"and the germs they carryâ€"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 infectionsâ€"those that have increased in attack rate or geographic range, or threaten to do soâ€"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.

Table of Contents
  • Front Matter
  • 1 Disease in Disguise
  • 2 Winged Victories
  • 3 Food Fright
  • 4 Superbugs
  • 5 The Once and Future Pandemic
  • 6 Infection Unmasked
  • 7 Bioterror
  • 8 Think Locally, Act Globally
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index

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Review:

The world's worst bioterrorist isn't the murderer who put anthrax spores into mail in the fall of 2001; it's Mother Nature, writes Madeline Drexler in this survey of infectious diseases. They're all here, described in detail from historical, scientific, and public-health perspectives: AIDS, influenza, the West Nile virus, and so on. Secret Agents is a good primer on each. The best chapter--and the scariest--may be the last one, which covers bioterrorism of the human variety (i.e., not Mother Nature). "If bioterrorists released smallpox virus, it would ... become a global calamity within six weeks," she writes. That's not even the scariest possibility: "Researchers estimate that as little as one gram of aerosolized botox could kill more than 1.5 million people." And there are no easy preventive measures. "Of the 50 top bioweapon pathogens, only 13 have vaccines or treatments." Because of this, Drexler calls for a massive increase in public-health funding. Without that, our doctors and hospitals will be unprepared for a disaster they may be able to anticipate right now. --John Miller

From the Inside Flap:

"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., Director, University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and 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

"Drexler tells the real story behind public health investigations -- a story of difficult characters, lapses in cooperation, and ugly turf battles. A valuable exposé." — Frederick A. Murphy, D.V.M, Ph.D, former Director, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780143117179: Emerging Epidemics: The Menace of New Infections

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ISBN 10:  0143117173 ISBN 13:  9780143117179
Publisher: Penguin Books, 2009
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9780142002612: Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections

Pengui..., 2003
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