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The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  7,802 Ratings  ·  291 Reviews
Unpurified drinking water. Improper use of antibiotics. Local warfare. Massive refugee migration. Changing social and environmental conditions around the world have fostered the spread of new and potentially devastating viruses and diseases—HIV, Lassa, Ebola, and others. Laurie Garrett takes you on a fifty-year journey through the world's battles with microbes and examines ...more
Paperback, 750 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1994)
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Gregory S.
Oct 01, 2011 Gregory S. rated it really liked it
A couple weeks after I read this wonderful book (years ago) I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and saw a woman that looked just like the jacket photo of Laurie Garrett. I stopped and asked "Are you Laurie Garrett?" And, of course, she was. Then I said something impossibly stupid--like "You are to disease what the Beatles are to music." That wasn't what I actually said, but it was something equally idiotic and I'm sure I embarrassed the poor woman.

I attended a reading she gave a few years
Feb 06, 2013 Chrissie rated it liked it
3 stars
This book is in-depth. The focus is on history, detailed facts and what we can do to prevent and cope with new maladies. Even if the book is no longer new, it still teaches a lot. We can learn from past mistakes. For me, parts read as a horror story. Then I calmed down. It first came out in 1994, and hey, we are still here! Did I become immune to the horror?! Or did it finally put me to sleep? In places, it sort of felt like a text book. My education was not adequate for a complete unders
Aug 10, 2014 Forrest rated it really liked it
Ebola's back. Want to know how it all started? Read this book. If you're not terrified by the time you're done, you're not paying attention or you have far too much faith in the strength of man versus microbes. I read this for a graduate-level history class on "Ecology, Disease, and Population". Needless to say, we spent quite a bit of time studying how disease has shaped human history.
Sep 22, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jim Inhofe
Shelves: own

We're screwed. The microbes are going to win. And make no mistake, climate change is going to accelerate our death spiral. (Though writing in the early 1990s, Garrett discusses the effects of global warming on pathogen populations and spread.)

One of the most fascinating things about this story is that we are drastically underestimating the number of deaths from microbes and pathogens. If we actually had public health departments that were funded and functioned properly, if we funded public healt
Aug 31, 2007 Stefanie rated it it was amazing
although it's now somewhat out of date, this remains far and away the most comprehensive and interesting book about diseases i've read. what sets this apart from the rest of the disease books on my shelf is the sheer amount of ground covered and how well it's presented. it doesn't particularly seem like it would be a fast read, yet it is.
Lisa Vegan
This is my kind of horror book. I think it scared me more than just about any other book I’ve ever read, but I loved it. I appreciated the author’s skillful and entertaining story telling and admired her scientific accuracy.

I can’t vouch that the information is current; I read this when it was first published. At the time it was pertinent and I can’t imagine that the basic theory (regarding epidemics) isn’t still valid. I’d continue to recommend this to anyone who’s interested in medicine, disea
Jen Williamson
Jan 31, 2013 Jen Williamson rated it really liked it
This is probably one of the most informative books I've ever read. Laurie Garrett's knowledge of public health issues, coupled with her keen ability to write in Lay Terms-- makes this somewhat dry (but necessary) information a whole lot more palatable. It's been 11 years since I originally read it, so time for another read.
Oct 12, 2014 AC rated it it was amazing
I read this when it came out -- and thought it was brilliant. It seems not to have aged much, judging by recent reviews.
This book terrified me.

If you think globalization and urbanization in distant places have had no ill effect on the quality of life on this planet, think again. We discover new diseases faster than we learn to treat them, and our current methods of treatment tend only to make the diseases stronger and more virulent. The author makes a grand case for a major change of mindset in funding not only medical research and health organizations, but also supporting basic human rights to safe living enviro
High Plains Library District
Oct 13, 2014 High Plains Library District rated it really liked it
Shelves: peter
Want the skinny on Ebola? I mean, the answer to that is probably not because, frankly, it's kind of terrifying.

Let me put that a different way.

Want to hear actual facts and research about Ebola instead of news bites?

The Coming Plague was easily the best thing I read in library school. Yes, library school. Just examine that name for a second and guess how much reading a library school student does. And then remember that I said this was the best part of all that reading. Then have a snack because
Nick Black
Dec 02, 2014 Nick Black rated it liked it
Recommended to Nick by: Emily Bragg
pretty good. certainly thorough. "epidemic" is tossed around pretty liberally -- if a fever burns out a south american village, does it make a sound? poor editing, with numerous phrases and sentences repeated verbatim and certain acronyms expanded not at all, on late use, or multiple times. i'd like to have seen more on the virology and suppression of HIV and fewer tedious pages of stats and prediction histories. worth reading, though.
Aug 10, 2011 Tim added it
A terrifying and humbling look at the manner in which human behavior is serving to intensify, spread and otherwise benefit viral and bacterial agents. Everything from anti-immunization efforts, prostitution, non-sterile hospital equipment, re-use of syringes, global warming, refugees, global animal trade, increased UV radiation, pollution... all make the world more hospitable to microbes, and less hospitable to humans. In an age when the most wealthy nation in the world can't agree to give healt ...more
Peter Derk
Oct 13, 2014 Peter Derk rated it really liked it
This is the best book you can read about disease, and it was the best thing I read in library school. Seriously, all of library school. You can just imagine how many books you have to read for something called "library school."

Probably a more important read than ever, the Coming Plague talks quite a bit about Ebola, for one, and the different methods by which diseases can be fought, how difficult it is to eradicate a disease, and how often politics and science can't get on the same page.

Don't lo
Jennifer Beadle
Jul 13, 2009 Jennifer Beadle rated it it was amazing
I read this book when it first came out and I was working in a biological chemical factory. This really hit home to me. We were in a way already dealing with some of the issues mentioned in the book. My job title at the time (my tongue-in-cheek title) was mad cow queen. I did research to verify the animal products we used and manufactured were bse-free.

You have to wonder what people who don't want universal health care are thinking. With so many people out of work and losing their health insura
Khanh (the Grinch)
Bwahahahaha. I'll write a review for this one of these days. Read this in high school and it's remained on my shelves since. Recommended for people who think drowning in your own blood is strangely intriguing.

Don't read this if you're prone to hypochondria. Or have a tendency to google your symptoms.

Hemorrhagic fevers are awesome.
Feb 16, 2008 Carrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This woman is amazing. I would never have thought that I'd spend entire days reading an 800-page book about diseases...but I did, because Laurie Garrett is one of those rare scientists who can write captivating sentences. This book chronicles both the emergence of, and response to, historically important deadly diseases and the role of the CDC, other government agencies, and nasty scientist political maneuvering in the attempts to contain said diseases.

I also like this book because it's ev
Mary Soderstrom
Oct 09, 2014 Mary Soderstrom rated it really liked it
Laurie Garrett's book The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance is nearly 20 years old but it offers very interesting background information about the first round of Ebola in Africa, plus important discussion of how diseases develop and spread. Garrett is now senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer, as well as being an engaging writer.

I had read this book several years ago when doing research on so
Aug 27, 2008 Amber rated it it was amazing
This book truly is amazing and one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. It explores every aspect of post Word War II diseases and their effects on humanity from a political, economical, and behavioral standpoint. While this is not a fast or easy read (I had a hard time getting through the last few chapters) it is well worth your time. Exploding with information. Fascinating.
Mirosław Dworniczak
Jul 29, 2016 Mirosław Dworniczak rated it it was amazing
Mocna rzecz. Bardzo mocna. Tego się nie da czytać jednym ciągiem, bo za bardzo dołuje. Przebija wszystkie thrillery czy inne postapo. A co gorsza - to nie jest fikcja, to literatura faktu. Podziwiam mrówczą pracę autorki.
No a podsumowanie jest proste: nie należy pytać, czy wystąpi pandemia, pytać można tylko: kiedy.
Czy damy radę wszystko przewidzieć i przygotować się. Nie, nie ma szans.
Stacy Chance
Mar 04, 2008 Stacy Chance rated it it was amazing
The title puts me off a little, because it sounds like it will be a doomsday alarmist proclamation about how we are creating and ignoring new diseases, and that new diseases are somehow "winning" the evolutionary "war". But in essence, it is a thorough look at how and why "new" diseases emerge and the fight that goes on against new and old diseases every day.
Dec 14, 2015 Meg rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 50-in-15
Nothing matters because we're all gonna die!!!!!!!
Jan 21, 2008 Sandy added it
investigative reporting and science coinciding --two of my favorite things and Garrett methodically and encyclopedically shows the intersect between corporate, institutional, and political mercenaries and the unfolding ecological brilliance of microbes
Written by a UCSC graduate, this book covers all of the many ways are actions contribute to the spread of disease vectors. Fascinating, scary and informative.
Feb 02, 2014 Robin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Almost 20 years later, the FDA still refuses to restrict antibiotics and livestock feed.
Aug 26, 2015 Hazel rated it it was amazing
If a genie offered me three wishes, the first thing I would respond with would be, "Dear genie, I wish that Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague was available as an ebook in the UK, because right now I have to choose between carrying it around at all times as befits my love for it and not suffering excruciating back pain."

Then the second wish would probably be to make sure that nobody in my family ever gets any of the dieases described in this book, because it has given me an immense amount of anx
This was an excellent book. It was extremely interesting, had great writing, and did a great job of mixing history, statistics, science, and even dramatic narrative to keep me constantly interested. Because of this, it often did not even feel like I was reading a book about the science and history of disease outbreaks and instead was reading a thriller novel, which shifted between different times, places, and people, but still kept a common thread of the same organizations, the same or similar d ...more
Tippy Jackson
As you can see from the number of shelves this book is on, this book has everything. Although it's a little outdated, a lot of it is history and her points there are still relevant. In particular, the AIDS stuff is outdated, but her comments on the spread of HIV and the reaction, timing, history and politics of the disease is still relevant and is important for evaluating where we could have improved and will hopefully be applied in the future, should another disease like this emerge.

Among my f
Corbin Dodge
Jul 14, 2008 Corbin Dodge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Both fascinating and frightening, The Coming Plague explores the dark side of human life and death. From the deep Congo where the Ebola virus lurks, to the streets of New York and San Francisco where the AIDS virus made its American debut, this book is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I highly praise Garrett for her medical storytelling abilities. She has a way of capturing her readers’ attention and keeping it--something rarely done in medically-descriptive writing. This book can be a
Oct 19, 2012 James rated it really liked it
I'll first say: this book is LONG. Having it on my Kindle meant that I did not really understand how long this book would be. It is definitely a commitment.

Overall, it is terrifying. I would become a germophobe and start covering myself in anti-microbial hand sanitizers, but the germs will just evolve around it, become resistance, and kill me anyway. The best portions on this book are following the disease detectives from the CDC and other organizations as they investigated real-world outbreaks
Jun 05, 2012 Liz rated it liked it
Shelves: public-health
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I think the three-star rating is justified for several reasons.

First, I want to focus on what I liked about Garrett's dense and detailed work. Garrett is a dedicated and specialized journalist. Her knowledge of not only the history but also the science in this historical book is impressive. Her chapter regarding the history of AIDS impressed me. I learned more in that one chapter about AIDS than any news article I have stumbled upon. Although the book is outdat
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