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The Power of Plagues

Author: Irwin W. Sherman
Content Type: Trade
Publication Year: 2005

The Power of Plagues offers a fascinating examination of epidemic diseases within a historical context. Engagingly written, this new volume presents the science of plagues in an understandable and accessible manner, describing the nature and evolution of diseases and conveying their significance in shaping Western culture and civilization.

Chapters present individual, independent plague stories complemented by relevant and historical illustrations. Major historic outbreaks are covered, including those of the Greek and Roman empires as well as the infamous Black Death. Contemporary and emerging diseases are comprehensively detailed, including HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, smallpox, SARS, West Nile virus infection, influenza, mad cow disease, and several others.

Despite advancements in the development of antimicrobials and vaccines and in securing clear water and food supplies, modern civilizations are not immune to epidemic diseases. The Power of Plagues provides insight into the struggle to attain disease control and eradication and explores the challenge of forecasting emerging plagues. In doing so, it offers readers a deeper understanding of modern public health issues and the role of infectious diseases.

There are no separately available contributors for this publication.

image of The Power of Plagues

Doody Enterprises

17 August 2013

At A Glance

"The Power of Plagues" offers a fascinating examination of epidemic diseases within a historical context. Engagingly written, this new volume presents the science of plagues in an understandable and accessible manner, describing the nature and evolution of diseases and conveying their significance in shaping Western culture and civilization. Chapters present individual, independent plague stories complemented by relevant and historical illustrations. Major historic outbreaks are covered, including those of the Greek and Roman empires as well as the infamous Black Death. Contemporary and emerging diseases are comprehensively detailed, including HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, smallpox, SARS, West Nile virus infection, influenza, mad cow disease, and several others. Despite advancements in the development of antimicrobials and vaccines and in securing clean water and food supplies, modern civilizations are not immune to epidemic diseases. "The Power of Plagues" provides insight into the struggle to attain disease control and eradication and explores the challenge of forecasting emerging plagues. In doing so, it offers readers a deeper understanding of modern public health issues and the role of infectious diseases.

Description

The author's goal with this book is to help readers understand the impact that outbreaks of disease have had on the course of history. He is skilled at summarizing complex political events and describing how plagues influenced the outcome. The book is written in an interesting style, but it would have been improved by having a person with a strong medical and public health background review the content. Important concepts, such as how control of latent tuberculosis prevents spread of the disease, are not mentioned.

Purpose

The purpose is to describe the nature and evolution of diseases and to show how the past can help us prepare for future encounters with infectious diseases. These are worthy objectives and the book will be of interest to the lay reader and might have a place in the curriculum of public health students. The book meets the author's objectives, although the facts of medical science as understood today are not always stated correctly.

Audience

Although the author does not describe the intended audience, one may assume that it consists of persons who do not have a strong medical background, because of the care taken to describe technical terms that a medical professional would already know. It is my impression that a well-educated lay audience is the main target of this book. If the description of the medical aspect of the diseases of interest were more accurate, this book would be suitable for use as a text for classes on public health topics.

Features

The book covers a broad range of diseases, with the common theme being the lessons to be learned from understanding what happened. It is written in an entertaining style. The photographic illustrations are chosen carefully and help explain the text. The description of historical events is brief but illustrates the point the author wants to make. The main shortcoming is the author's failure to check medical facts. In some cases, the error is minor but in at least one instance, an important point was missed.

Assessment

The quality of the book is moderately high. It makes history and medical science interesting and accessible for an audience that might not otherwise attempt to read about these topics. I'm not sure it should be used as a textbook unless its errors were to be corrected.

Doody Enterprises

Reviewer: Susanna Von Essen, MD (University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Review Date: Unknown

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