Cover image for Where the germs are : a scientific safari
Where the germs are : a scientific safari
Bakalar, Nick.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, [2003]

Physical Description:
ix, 262 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QR56 .B35 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
QR56 .B35 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A guided tour through the strange and sometimes dangerous microscopic world
Germs are everywhere--in our intestines and on our skin as well as on kitchen counters, public toilets, doorknobs, and just about everything else. Why are there so many microorganisms? Which ones are dangerous? And how can we avoid the ones that will make us sick? This entertaining and informative book provides the answers. Profiling a rogue's gallery of harmful germs--from the influenza virus, salmonella, and herpes to hepatitis, tuberculosis, and HIV--as well as helpful microbes (we actually need E. Coli and other bacteria for proper digestion), the book reveals how different germs interact with the human body and what happens when they do.
Nicholas Bakalar (New York, NY) is the author or coauthor of ten books, including Hepatitis A to G and Wiping Out Head Lice.

Author Notes

Nicholas Bakalar is a New York-based writer and book editor. He is the author or coauthor of ten books

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Germs are everywhere, and for most readers, longtime science writer Bakalar's intriguing, solidly based safari through the world of germs will introduce striking discoveries and useful scientific thought processes. For those in the general population, the kitchen is probably the room with the greatest potential for trouble with germs; on the other, er, hand, toilet seats are generally among the home's cleanest locales--surely an encouragement to potential readers of this book and related literature. Although regular hand washing can kill off or slow down infections just about anywhere, Bakalar's scrutiny of other "wisdom" (mostly advertising and popular) yields more mixed assessments. Pet keeping, for instance, can improve the psychological outlook of young and old but also spread germs, because even adopting animals from pounds often requires the exchange of genuinely filthy lucre. Meanwhile, Bakalar's explorations in "cleaner than clean" grocery store aisles and of the bottled water proposed for healthful drinking illuminate the brightest pages of current financial media. A glossary helpfully translates widely used but often not as widely known acronyms and other terms. --William Beatty

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the last 12 months Americans have watched as germs made the headlines: anthrax, West Nile virus, bubonic plague and outbreaks of illness on cruise ships. Bakalar (Hepatitis A to G) explains where the enemy is lurking and how to defeat it. The most likely place to find bacteria? On, and in, your own body-but many of these are actually beneficial or at least benign. The kitchen is the main battleground in the home in the war against salmonella and campylobacter. Many foods come from the market carrying a battalion of germs, but Bakalar discusses the safest ways to chop, cook and clean up to minimize the risk. The bathroom is second as a home health hazard. Flushing the toilet actually aerosolizes water droplets (and germs), so put the seat and lid down, guys. Bakalar discusses potential health risks from pets: dogs are the safest, but you might want to think twice about iguanas and other reptiles. His excellent chapter on childhood diseases and vaccines should be required reading for parents, and teenagers should be plunked down in a chair with the chapter on sexually transmitted diseases. Bakalar doesn't miss much: he overlooks histoplasmosis, a significant health problem in towns with birds roosting on downtown buildings, and he leaves out anthrax although he discusses smallpox. His writing is witty, and he gives all the details of germs and illnesses without medical school jargon. In short, according to this book, the best defense against germs is what your mother always told you: Wash your hands. Often. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Nonscientists often exhibit behavior bordering on paranoia with respect to the presence of germs in common places. One is tempted to add "with good reason." Most of us have suffered from food poisoning or environmentally associated illnesses; Bakalar provides excellent examples as to why such outbreaks have occurred, writing in a lighthearted style with limited depth but at a level appropriate to the layperson. He begins with a description of various types of microorganisms found in the environment, places where we are likely to initiate contact, and then details the role of public health in reducing the threat of disease. Much of what follows is a discussion of how we encounter microbial life--places ranging from the kitchen, to pets, and even day care. Bakalar includes a mixture of clinical examples and applies them to each category. This reviewer found particularly interesting the role played by anti-microbials, such as those embedded in toys, which sometimes do more harm than good. The book finishes with an evaluation of the more common antiseptics available in the marketplace and their use in proper context. Useful glossary; appropriate references. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates; two-year technical program students. R. Adler University of Michigan--Dearborn

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
1 Microbes: An Introductionp. 1
2 Hungry? Let's Eat: The Contaminated Kitchenp. 17
3 Toilet Training: Washing Hands Is the Best Revengep. 49
4 Whiter Whites and Brighter Colors: Healthy Laundryp. 61
5 Clean Up That Room: Kids and Microbesp. 71
6 What Love's Got to Do with It: Microbes and Your Sex Lifep. 98
7 Wild Kingdom: Pets and Their Germsp. 121
8 Up Your Nose: The Flu and the Coldp. 136
9 Bottled or Tap: Water, and What's in Itp. 152
10 Fresh Air and Sunshine: Outdoor Fun with Microbesp. 164
11 Paint the Town Red: Germs in Public Placesp. 189
12 The Antiseptic Supermarket: Products That Do Something, Products That Do Nothing, and Products That Actually Do Harmp. 215
Glossaryp. 227
Notesp. 243
Indexp. 255