The Coming Plague

Laurie Garrett

The Coming Plague



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The Coming Plague is an interesting journey of discovery into the world of microbiology. Published for the first time in 1994, it is still very current. Not only does it tell the stories linked to the discoveries of viruses such as Ebola and AIDS, but it also examines the historical and environmental context that favours the development of new illnesses. History tends to repeat itself, so becoming familiar with the past can help us to understand the present. Humankind has a huge responsibility to prevent new epidemics, as well as managing existing ones. Viruses will always be around and we humans must develop the ability to recognise and accept this fact, in order to adapt our choices and actions, and in order to be able to live in harmony with them. 

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Analysis and key concepts


The real enemies are microorganisms like viruses and bacteria


The problem arises when viruses spread from animals to humans


The first studies on viruses. The Colombian Machupo virus case


Defeating a new virus can be an enormous challenge


How a virus works in the human body


The HIV/AIDS case as an example of a complex epidemic that is difficult to manage


Man is responsible for the spread of new epidemics


Viruses will always be present and we need to learn to live with them




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Find out the history and the background behind various diseases such as AIDS.
  • Understand how a new epidemic is tackled from the perspective of medical science.
  • Understand why new epidemics and illnesses develop.
  • Shed some light on today’s epidemics from lessons learnt in the past.

Laurie Garret is a famous American scientific journalist and writer. She has always been interested in microbiology, and has followed the development of major epidemics for several top news outlets such as Newsday, The Washington Post Magazine and the Los Angeles Times. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for her thorough scientific dissemination work, in particular for a series of articles on the Ebola epidemic in Zaire. Still today, Laurie Garrett is a point of reference and an authoritative source of information in her field. She is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Health Security Advisory Board.

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