History in Review
Global Flu and You
A History of Influenza
By George Dehner
Reaktion Books, 2013
Distributed by the University of Chicago Press
Reviewed by Anna Dogole - February 6, 2013
Everyone, if you live long enough, will eventually come down with a case of influenza. In most cases, you will be a victim of this ubiquitous disease countless times over the course of your lifetime. In addition, you are likely to experience more than one pandemic outbreak of influenza over the course of your lifetime. But what, exactly is influenza? Is it just a bad cold or something else all together? What causes influenza to take on epidemic proportions, and what causes it to develop into a pandemic? Most important, during a pandemic outbreak of influenza, what are your chances of surviving an illness that has been known to kill millions during major outbreaks? These questions, and more are answered in George Dehner's informative new book, Global Flu and You.
In this timely book, Dehner not only explores the facts about the flu, but he also shatters many of the myths surrounding it. He explores the various methodologies and technologies that are currently being used to control and hopefully, one day, conquer influenza. Also, he aptly illustrates how modern demographics, ease of travel, and other modern marvels have helped to speed up the spread of new, possibly deadly strains, of the flu. Most important, he tries to answer the question, "Should I be concerned about an influenza pandemic, and, if so, why?" (Pg. 9)
Dehner answers this question by providing an overview of what influenza is and how it is spread. He provides a concise overview of the known history of influenza and a few of the major pandemics such as the 1918 outbreak of Spanish Flu and the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak. He examines the ongoing fears, both within the scientific community and the general public of a potential bird flu pandemic. An overview of modern man's attempts to identify, control, and eventually eradicate the flu virus is covered. Along the way, Dehner chronicles both successes and failures, of our attempts to create an effective vaccine against influenza.
Dehner is also the author of Influenza: A Century of Science and Public Health Response. In this new volume, which is accessible to scientists, historians, and lay readers alike, Dehner provides a solid grounding in the history and science related to pandemic influenza. As Dehner points out in Global Flu and You, yes pandemics do present a serious threat to human health and they do have a major economic impact. However, they are not apocalyptic events. The vast majority (97% by his estimation), of those infected during the most serious pandemic flu outbreak recorded, recovered. That being said, it is still important to 'know your enemy' and to take prudent steps to defeat it. In the meantime, don't panic!
Global Flu and You covers a lot of ground in a short space. The book is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of the history of influenza. Rather it provides a foundation for further study, for those so inclined. At the same time, it provides a solid grounding for those only interested in developing a broad, non-technical understanding of the influenza's history and its implications for the future. For those desirous of pursuing this interesting topic in greater detail, you'll find Dehner's reference notes and up-to-date bibliography to be a beneficial source of material for further research.
Mass Mediated Disease, by Debra E. Blakely.
A Case Study Analysis of Three Flu Pandemics and Public Health Policy.
American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, by Nancy K. Bristow.
A compelling social history of the impact of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic on American society, history, and psyche.
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