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Soap and Water and Common Sense: The Definitive Guide to Viruses, Bacteria, Parasites, and Disease

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  70 reviews
As a physician who has spent nearly two decades chasing bugs all over the world — from Ebola in Uganda, to polio in Pakistan, to SARS in Toronto — leading epidemiologist and public-health doctor Bonnie Henry offers three simple rules to help people avoid getting sick: clean your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and stay at home when you have a fever. It all boils do ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by House of Anansi Press (first published 2009)
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Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author, an epidemiologist, writes about the world of microbes in a technique geared towards the lay reader. Histories, case studies and facts are presented in a matter-of-fact and digestible style. There are many breaking points within each chapter.

The book is a handy primer into the world of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites with longer expository pieces on significant microbes such as influenza, TB, MRSA and others. In addition to germs the author talks about early theories of disease
Apr 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I found Dr. Bonnie Henry’s preamble into the world of micro-organism a great introduction into microbiology ; she covered the birth and history of epidemiology, vaccination, and various pathogens that has plagued humankind from past to present, as well as its resurgence.

I was hoping to read about her experience of SARS in Toronto when it occurred in 2001. However, she did not get into it at all. That said, her main focus was on the
practices that seem “common sense” which are done w/out much aw
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I feel like I've been watching the movie adaptation since March so it was nice to read the book ...more
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Very very very good, easy to read. Great bibliography and although it is a 2009 book, it has a March 2020 introduction referencing COVID-19. A must read given the times. I thought it would scare me but it gave me comfort.
Available on Kobo and Kindle [read March 202 intro; chap 3; Top 10 Myths and Top 10 ways to stay healthy if you are in a hurry which most of us in the region are not right now].
Dr. Bonnie Henry is chief of British Columbia, Canada CDC and face of their daily COVID-19 updates.
kristin conrad
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really didn't think I'd be so into a book that's literally mostly about how important it is to wash your hands. that's tongue in cheek--Bonnie Henry, our provincial health officer here in BC, has written a really interesting book about viruses, bacteria, microbes, and how they are transmitted. she dispels many myths about illnesses associated with certain cultures (I particularly enjoyed the conversations about syphilis and HIV). also included are helpful tips for staying healthy in everyday l ...more
A Man Called Ove
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-sci-fi
In March this year (2020), my mother was hospitalised a week before the lockdown and I remarked - “We dont have an effective antibiotic against Corona virus.”
Some1 more knowledgeable in the visitors area remarked - “Antibiotics dont work on viruses anyway.” This extreme ignorance was extremely tested once the lockdown was declared. Especially since we Indians dont have faith on our govts and the WHO too was robbed of its credibility.
Before the frightening Corona pandemic, in the worst case, gett
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Having already washed my hands numerous times today, being aware of not touching my face and not being within 6 feet of anyone today, I’m now checking out my refrigerator for possible pathogens. I’ve been adhering to many infection control practices thru the years but Dr Henry brings today’s reality to a new level. Done in an easy to read and understand format, she brings you face to face with the many microbes that we coexist with on this planet.
Ben Rogers
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspiring book.

Too bad these simple sanitary practices are not followed.
It's likely why we're in this situation.

Highly recommended.

Stay home, stay safe, only drive around if NECESSARY!

May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book although was written in 2009 it has references to 2020 and covid 19 at the beginning. I found it very easy to read and was fascinated by all the information about the various bugs in the world. Very good read given the times we are in.
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it
A light, easy read. Bonnie Henry gives a quick overview of diseases and their history that in parts of the book just amounts to a list of diseases and their descriptions. The book is lacking in details and doesn't tell an interesting story about disease management, how disease spreads or how they have affected human history. Ultimately, I did not feel like I learned anything new from reading this book, however I would recommend it to someone who is totally new to the subject and looking for a st ...more
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Alas this book did not hit my spot. It seemed confused and disorganised - is it a basic text, is it a history of infectious disease, is a guide to preventing infectious disease? Not quite any of those things It reminded me of my microbiology and virology course at university which was delivered by a rambling lecturer. There were some odd oversimplifications and omissions.

There certainly are plenty of interesting stories scattered through the book - I didn't know about Salmonella in chocolate, go
Nov 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Written in layperson friendly language in the kind and compassionate tone of Dr. Henry - interesting crash course in the history of some of our more common infectious outbreaks, things like how vaccines came to be, what happened when someone brought a dog bite victim to Dr. Pasteur, how malaria has evolved over the years, how global warming has affected seafood, etc. All in all, a very interesting read.

ALSO!! - Recommended reading for any of your friends still referring to COVID19 as "China viru
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic description of the origin of diseases and what we can do to stop the spread of them. Well-written and down to earth, Henry's book is a must-read for any health care professional looking into epidemiology for the first time. ...more
Lee Paris
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the year of Covid-19 the re-issue of this guide by Dr. Henry is certainly timely. The title is inspired by the advice offered by Sir William Osler "the father of modern medicine". It's intended for the layperson and explains in direct, largely non-technical prose the various infectious diseases which assail humanity be they bacterial, viral, parasitical or fungal. She also deals with controversial issues such as the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics for viral infections. Although many li ...more
Aug 26, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars
Maybe this 2009 publication might be better titled "Bonnie's Bug Book"! An early review by another Medical Health Officer suggested that Dr. Henry's take on viruses, bacteria and parasites might be alarmist - what we know now is that she was likely prescient as the world tries to survive the Covid19 pandemic of 2020 (or possibly earlier). Written in laymen's terms, Dr. Henry covers a lot of scary territory, and finishes the book with a big bang about traveller's bugs, particularly mosqu
Bill Dunsmore
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what a read!

Years ago as a ten year old spending time with relatives in a cabin on Kalamalka lake I would be reminded of the scourge of polio when the weekly RCAF Catalina would land on the lake taxi to the public beach and await the ambulances from Vernon . A number of small litters would be transported across the sand and the big flying boat would lumber off to YVR. Needless to say I was scared silly! Since then I have always wanted to know more- especially in these COVID 19 times- more a
Matsuko Friedland
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was excited to read this book based on the work Dr. Bonnie Henry has been doing during this COVID pandemic. However, I was pretty disappointed with it. The content is not very insightful, accurate, or well-composed. A lot of dated terminology and misinformation pops up, and not just for historical commentary. Based on the title, I expected much more focus on prevention, but it's really more of an overview of various diseases. I was disappointed that she didn't share much from her unique person ...more
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This easily read and understood book is nonetheless rigorous and written by one of the world's leading epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists. Dr. Henry is British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer and has lead the fight in B. C. against Covid-19. And while the book does mention Covid-19 in the introduction, this is a book about the diseases, epidemics and pandemics that came before -- she's much too busy right now to write about the disease she's busy trying to save us all from. ...more
Mar 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know what I was really expecting out of this one. I
Picked it up on my library’s ebook app solely because it was available and I figured it could be worth the read. I was not expecting it to be an in depth exploration of epidemiology. I appreciated the information and comparison of past pandemics. Looking back on past pandemics gave some faith and hope that the immediate threat of covid will eventually fade. The tips on how to stay healthy at the end were very obvious and things we all sh
Mala Ashok
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Bonnie Henry has been a calming, reassuring presence daily in the lives of all British Columbians. She has managed the Covid crisis and kept the "numbers" down. We have learned to look up to her and trust her. Thus, when I saw the book written by her I grabbed it. It is surprisingly prescient in that it predicts something like this even n 2009. What is more important is that her mantra of, Soap, Water, and Common Sense has remained steadfast. A must-read for these times and all times. The bo ...more
Steve Tripp
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
From our modern day hero .. the book is 10 years old but it's worth reading. There is lots of good practical information. Wash your hands, stay home if you are sick .. hmm sound familiar???? Indeed .. after reading this book and learning what's out there I can guarantee you I'm definitely improving my hand hygiene but I also may never go outside again; I may stop eating (certainly at unclean restaurants) and, above all else, I will never ever ever trust a mosquito. Good book .. worth reading and ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian, women
Very readable summary of all the microbes and the diseases they cause and how we can protect ourselves. Dr. Henry is an accomplished public health doctor and in BC we are lucky she is leading the covid-19 pandemic response. The basic mantras she has been repeating throughout - wash your hands, stay home if sick, cover your mouth when coughing - figures prominently in this book too.

Logic aside, this book is also scary af. There are so many bacteria and viruses that can make you sick and possibly
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Interesting, informative, timely, and just a bit depressing. I find it amazing how humans can survive at all with the hordes of bacteria and viruses out to get us :(
I'm glad, though, that there are people like Dr. Bonny Henry who are smart enough and compassionate enough to try to save as many humans as possible!

...By the summer of 2003 SARS had been contained. But the outbreak exposed some serious deficiencies in our hospitals and public health systems....

....the spread of disease can be just a
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great book for those of us that did not know a virus from a bacteria from any other cause of diseases or upset.
A great wander through the acquisition and preventative actions of diseases from air, food, water, travel and local activities.
I am sure this would never be considered a detailed, technical analysis of disease and sources thereof but for us laypeople it strikes the right chord between being sufficiently detailed and providing an informative and enjoyable read.
Nice work Dr Henry.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I actually read the 2nd edition, updated with new intro & info, & published in 2020. I think I had read the first edition some years ago. All good & useful information & generally well explained & easy to read. With covid-19, we are all becoming much more aware of, & performing, the basic behaviors to protect ourselves. There is much more history, prevention & management information that is helpful to all.
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve always been interested n microbiology....learned some new and interesting things from this book. It really is scary to realize there are so many of the superbugs, antibiotic-resistant bugs and re-emerging afflictions.......educating ourselves and others and giving access to soap, water and knowledge are our best chance of avoiding or eliminating serious health problems caused by these microbes!
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 stars

Easy to read and informative. Lots of interesting facts and stories.

Such as vaccines are so good at working, people who have grown up in a world mostly free of these diseases believe they are unnecessary or even dangerous. When the truth is they work, and we are healthy because of vaccines.

Or the astonishing large number of diseases that are prevented by hand washing with soap. Soap saves lives.

May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is as impressive as its author. Descriptions and explanations of various bugs are simply put and easy to follow. It is somewhat shocking to read about pandemics of dreadful diseases prevalent in other countries on an ongoing basis that we are unaware of and feel safe from in this country, but about which we should not become complacent.
Christopher Jacoby
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a great reference book to all the diseases, bacteria and viruses that are out there. The book repeats the same messages that we all know, but then further explains why. Overall those messages are: 1. Wash your hands throughout the day. 2. Cover your mouth when you cough. 3. Stay home when you are sick. 4. Cook food thoroughly.
Rayfes Mondal
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Written in 2009 but even more timely today while we deal with covid-19. Great history of how we've battled so many parasites. We've had some stunning victories and vaccines have saved millions of lives but there are many others we can't control and our over use antibiotics will cause more problems with super bugs.

And it's amazing how much you can prevent by just washing your hands often.
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Dr. Bonnie Henry was appointed as Provincial Health Officer for the Province of British Columbia in 2018. As BC’s most senior public health official, Dr. Henry is responsible for monitoring the health of all British Columbians and undertaking measures for disease prevention and control and health protection. Most recently, Dr. Henry has led the province’s response on the COVID-19 pandemic and drug ...more

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