Cover image for Six modern plagues and how we are causing them
Six modern plagues and how we are causing them
Walters, Mark Jerome.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington : Island Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
206 pages ; 22 cm
Mad cow disease -- HIV/AIDS (aka Marilyn and Amandine) -- Salmonella: a deadly new strain -- Lyme disease -- Hantavirus (aka A Spring to Die For) -- A virus from the Nile.
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RA653 .W34 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"In a clear, engaging style, Dr. Walters tells the tale of each disease like a detective story. He allows each mystery to unfold as it did in reality, often slowly, through the lives of the plants and animals involved, the first human victims, the government officials who tried to respond, and the scientists who ultimately explained what was happening." -NEW YORK TIMES "...a fascinating work of ecological journalism, utterly convincing in its argument: that our health and the health of the environment are intimately linked, and we overlook that link at our peril." -MICHAEL POLLAN, AUTHOR OF SECOND NATURE AND THE BOTANY OF DESIRE "Mark Jerome Walters weaves a fine thread of human disturbances through the quilt work of modern pandemics. After being drawn engagingly into the explosive symptoms of global environmental change, readers will come to understand that we have no choice but to make peace with nature." -PAUL R. EPSTEIN, M.D., M.P.H., CENTER FOR HEALTH AND THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL West Nile Virus -- Mad Cow Disease -- HIV/AIDS -- Hantavirus -- Lyme Disease ... and a new strain of Salmonella. Such modern epidemics have emerged over the past few decades as mysterious, yet significant risks to human health. These "plagues" are forcing us to modify our lifestyles in ways that minimize our chances of becoming a statistic in the latest tally of the afflicted.In Six Modern Plagues, Mark Jerome Walters offers us the first book for the general reader that connects these emerging health risks and their ecological origins. Drawing on new research, interviews, and his own investigations, Mark Jerome Walters weaves together a compelling argument: that changes humans have made to the environment, from warming the climate to clearing the forests, have contributed to, if not caused a rising tide of diseases that are afflicting humans and many other species. According to Mark Jerome Walters, humans are not always innocent bystanders to infectious disease. To the contrary, in the case of many modern epidemics, we are the instigators. Six Modern Plagues, a ground-breaking introduction to the connection between disease and environmental degradation should be read by all those interested in their health and the health of others.

Author Notes

Trained in journalism and veterinary medicine, Mark Jerome Walters has written and lectured widely on the origins of epidemics. A visiting lecturer at Harvard Medical School for the past two years, he is now a professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

In sharp, readable accounts of six recent plagues, Walters points at the 1,000-pound gorilla customarily ignored in modern epidemiological discussions: underlying ecological causes. Those include industrial agriculture, with its pursuit of money rather than wholesome food; industrial forestry, with its pursuit of money rather than biosystem integrity; and industrial pharmacology, with its pursuit of money rather than human, animal, and plant health. Meat animals were made cannibals to increase output, and mad cow disease erupted. African forests were virtually strip-mined; bush-meat (wild animals) became essential to feeding work gangs and then hoards of displaced forest dwellers; and HIV/AIDS exploded (in North America, forest liquidation is also behind Lyme disease). Crops and livestock were massively injected with antibiotics to increase yields, and an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella flared up to kill animals and humans with astonishing speed. Walters also traces the lines of connection and causation back from epidemic outbreaks of West Nile virus and the hantavirus to the ecological depredations of modern industry. He never rants, he is always calm, and he is scarily cogent. --Ray Olson Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The SARS outbreak earlier this year was a classic illustration of how disease can spread around the world via intercontinental travelers and how diseases can jump from animals to humans. Walters, a veterinarian and Harvard Medical School visiting lecturer, describes how human actions affecting the environment and the animals that live in it have exacerbated the spread of six diseases that have jumped in similar fashion to our species from their original hosts, creating serious new threats to public health. He begins with perhaps the most frightening one of all, mad cow disease, which attacks victims' brains. Many scientists believe the biological agent that causes the disease spread from scrapie-infected sheep to cows when sheep by-products were put in high-protein livestock feed. A virulent new strain of salmonella, DT104, has been created in part through the food industry's feeding antibiotics to chickens and livestock. Walters also explains that as hunters and laborers in central Africa continue to eat bush meat, new diseases will almost surely emerge from out of the jungles, as HIV did. The author also looks at hantavirus, its outbreaks thus far restricted to parts of the Southwest; Lyme disease, spread by deer ticks that live on and are spread by mice; and the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, which made its way to America from the eastern Mediterranean a few years ago. Walters presents a compelling case that the "deep ecological, demographic, and industrial roots" of these diseases must be considered if we are to minimize the danger of future emerging diseases. (Sept. 24) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Many recent books have considered the problem of emerging diseases, yet lay readers will find this a particularly fascinating and readable look at the situation. Walters, a veterinarian and science journalist (A Shadow and a Song: The Struggle To Save an Endangered Species), uses the examples of mad cow disease, AIDS, Salmonella DT104, Lyme disease, Hantavirus, and the West Nile virus to illustrate how continuous changes to the environment can contribute to the spread of disease. Global warming, increased human contact with wild animals, and increased international travel are just a few of the changes that have made an impact. By taking a brief look at the recent SARS epidemic, Walters aptly illustrates that the situation is not improving. A quick read and a great introduction to the topic, this is recommended for public and undergraduate collections. Research libraries looking for more depth should consider Tony McMichael's Human Frontiers, Environments, and Disease or Laurie Garrett's slightly dated but still relevant The Coming Plague.-Tina Neville, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Ever since Hans Zinsser's classic Rats, Lice and History (1935), and especially in the last decade, a number of works have addressed the role of diseases in society and strategies for coping with them, such as Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague (CH, Sep'95), James Le Fanu's The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine (CH, Dec'00), Tony McMichael's Human Frontiers, Environments and Disease (CH, May'02), and Richard Preston's The Hot Zone (CH, Apr'95). Walter's slim but provocative volume is the most recent contribution. Taking a scientifically informed, journalistic approach, Walters (media studies, Univ. of South Florida) examines six modern diseases: mad cow disease, HIV/AIDS, salmonella DT104, Lyme disease, hantavirus, and West Nile virus. Highlighting the main features of the history and impact of each of these diseases, he presents them as "parables of the unintended consequences of the careless human disruption of the natural systems that are our home." Walters advocates several ameliorating strategies: preservation of natural ecosystems, greater social equity, research, surveillance, and medical research. As if to highlight his thesis, Walters adds an epilogue to address the 2002 outbreak of SARS to hammer home his point: the necessity for "protecting and restoring the ecological wholeness upon which our health often depends." ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. B. Osborne Queen's University at Kingston

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1. The Dark Side of Progress: Mad Cow Diseasep. 19
2. A Chimp Called Amandine: HIV/AIDSp. 47
3. The Travels of Antibiotic Resistance: Salmonella DT104p. 63
4. Of Old Growth and Arthritis: Lyme Diseasep. 89
5. A Spring to Die For: Hantavirusp. 113
6. A Virus from the Nilep. 127
Epilogue: SARS and Beyondp. 147
Notesp. 157
Acknowledgmentsp. 191
Indexp. 197