The Coming Plague

Laurie Garrett. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1994.

A thinking person’s THE HOT ZONE, far more comprehensive and accurate, Garrett presents a picture of emerging viruses that is, finally, far more frightening. She presents a compelling account of the history of ebola, marburg, and lassa fever viruses, of HIV and the origin of AIDS, of hantavirus in America, and of a host of other devastating infectious diseases that periodically emerge and burn their way through African and Amazonian populations, often little noted. With modern transportation able to move people around the world in a day, future outbreaks have a scary potential of becoming pandemics. Based on extensive interviews with leading experts in virology and emerging diseases, Garrett’s account is gripping and scary precisely because her account is so exhaustively researched. Weighing in at 622 pages (plus 108 pages of notes) the book is more than a casual night’s reading, but it is well not to read it at night anyway, as you will not sleep soon after.

Dr. George Johnson