The story of viruses and humanity is a story of fear and ignorance, of grief and heartbreak, and of great bravery and sacrifice. Michael Oldstone tells all these stories as he illuminates the history of the devastating diseases that have tormented humanity, focusing mostly on the most famous viruses. Oldstone begins with smallpox, polio, and measles. Nearly 300 million people were killed by smallpox in this century alone and the author presents a vivid account of the long campaign to eradicate this lethal killer. Oldstone then describes the fascinating viruses that have captured headlines in more recent years: Ebola, Hantavirus, mad cow disease (a frightening illness made worse by government mishandling and secrecy), and, of course, AIDS. And he tells us of the many scientists watching and waiting even now for the next great plague, monitoring influenza strains to see whether the deadly variant from 1918--a viral strain that killed over 20 million people in 1918-1919--will make a comeback. For this revised edition, Oldstone includes discussions of new viruses like SARS, bird flu, virally caused cancers, chronic wasting disease, and West Nile, and fully updates the original text with new findings on particular viruses. Viruses, Plagues, and History paints a sweeping portrait of humanity's long-standing conflict with our unseen viral enemies. Oldstone's book is a vivid history of a fascinating field, and a highly reliable dispatch from an eminent researcher on the front line of this ongoing campaign.
Although viral outbreaks have been around for centuries, we still know so little about these giant killers. As people continue to reach the far corners of the world and are increasingly encroaching on more and more wildlife habitats, viral plagues are only going to intensify and become deadlier.
In his book Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present and Future, Michael B.A. Oldstone, MD, Professor Emeritus and head of the Viral Immunology Laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute, offers a lucid explanation of how viral diseases managed to deplete native populations on different continents, causing dramatic geographic, economic, and religious changes.
Smallpox, polio, measles, yellow fever, HIV AIDS, SARS, West Nile virus, mad cow disease are just a few of the deadly diseases that humanity has had to face with in the past five centuries, but this list is certainly going to grow.
Even a century later, we still do not know why the lethal Spanish flu managed to kill more than 50 million people around the world. Advances in detective virology, therapeutics and our understanding of the basic functions of the immune system may have helped in dealing with several epidemics, yet the risks of the next viral pandemic or bioterrorist attack are always clear and present.
The sobering legacy of the number of infections and lives claimed by deadly viruses worldwide: smallpox – 300 million; HIV – 39 million infected, 17 million deaths; measles – 130 million infected, 8 million deaths.
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Michael B. A. Oldstone, M.D., is Professor and Head of the Viral-Immunobiology Laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute. A leader in the field, he has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors and has served or serves on several national and international committees charged with understanding, treating and eliminating viral diseases. He was a consultant to the World Health Organization for the eradication of poliomyelitis and measles, and was a member of the SAGE Executive Board. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.