Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses, and Drug-Resistant Parasites

By Alexandra M Levitt
Despite advances in health care, infectious microbes continue to be a formidable adversary to scientists and doctors. Vaccines and antibiotics, the mainstays of modern medicine, have not been able to conquer infectious microbes because of their amazing ability to adapt, evolve, and spread to new places. Terrorism aside, one of the greatest dangers from infectious disease we face today is from a massive outbreak of drug-resistant microbes.
"Deadly Outbreaks" recounts the scientific adventures of a special group of intrepid individuals who investigate these outbreaks around the world and figure out how to stop them. Part homicide detective, part physician, these medical investigators must view the problem from every angle, exhausting every possible source of contamination. Any data gathered in the field must be stripped of human sorrows and carefully analyzed into hard statistics.
Author Dr. Alexandra Levitt is an expert on emerging diseases and other public health threats. Here she shares insider accounts she's collected that go behind the alarming headlines we've seen in the media: mysterious food poisonings, unexplained deaths at a children's hospital, a strange neurologic disease afflicting slaughterhouse workers, flocks of birds dropping dead out of the sky, and drug-resistant malaria running rampant in a refugee camp. Meet the resourceful investigators--doctors, veterinarians, and research scientists--and discover the truth behind these cases and more.

These are gripping, suspenseful stories that are exceptionally well-written and highly instructive. Public health practitioners and students will benefit from the hard-won victories of epidemiologists described here, and in my opinion, one can hardly hope to learn important lessons for the future in a more enjoyable way. Beyond the interesting science and methodology of epidemiology per se, the reader experiences vicariously the personal and professional mindsets of epidemiologists as they deal with substantial medical, bureaucratic, political and legal challenges, sometimes simultaneously, often while being well aware of the high stakes consequences of their findings. --Don Hopkins, M.D., M.P.H., Vice President of Health Programs at The Carter Center



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