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Understanding Epidemics-bookcover

By: John Brooke

Understanding Epidemics

Pages: 72 Ratings: 5.0
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This book explains, in non-technical terms, the relationship between man and the many bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms with whom he lives in the most intimate manner throughout his existence.

It is explained that for the most part, this coexistence is beneficial, but that through evolution and natural selection, some bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms may become aggressive to the host in which they live and that others may become aggressive as a result of mutation through other species.

This aggressiveness manifests itself through the diseases which afflict man and all that is living.

The cause and nature of those diseases which have been most devastating for human society and which have greatly influenced the course of history are portrayed in this book, as are the means by which the spread of infections may be controlled before they progress to become epidemics and pandemics.

Dr John Brooke was born in 1942. His father, serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, survived thirty missions over occupied Europe and participated at D-Day, and the liberation of France. His mother was an ardent spiritualist.

Educated at an early age by the Catholic order, the De La Salle Brothers, he obtained the prize for catechism with a mark of 100% before being awarded a choral scholarship at Magdalen College School, Oxford, where he was active in music and the theatre; playing the lead role in Shakespeare’s King in Henry IV part two and sharing the post of school organist and the prize for the organ.

He studied medicine at Edinburgh University also obtaining, an honours degree in Pharmacology.

Now retired after nearly half a century of medical practice in the United Kingdom, France and latterly Chad with Médecins Sans Frontières, he has returned to his studies of the organ, particularly the works of J S Bach and has given recitals in Europe and Australia.

Customer Reviews
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  • Jan Greenough

    John Brooke began his medical studies in Edinburgh in the early 1960s, when many of his professors had personal experience of the epidemics of the first half of the century. Entertainingly, he recounts an introductory lecture when an eminent professor pointed out that if his students really wished to contribute to the health of humanity, they should turn to manufacturing washing machines: in the case of so many ailments, including the plague and typhus, a hot wash of clothes and bedlinen (as well as personal hygiene) is an effective means of preventing their spread.

    John’s varied medical career spanned nearly fifty years of practice in the UK and France, and a period of service with Médecins Sans Frontières at the malaria hospital in Chad. He is eminently well qualified not only to provide a wide-ranging account of the nature of epidemics, but also to deliver his information clearly and simply. This is not a book for the medical student, but for the general reader with an interest in the subject – which since the advent of SARS-CoV-2 in 2019 includes almost everyone.

    In short, manageable chapters he leads the reader through an explanation of the nature of the many micro-organisms with which we live, and provides glimpses of the historical development of scientific understanding of bacteria and viruses. Indeed, he makes generous use of examples of epidemics throughout history, from the Athenian plague of 330 BC to our current familiarity with malaria and COVID-19.

    For this reader, who has attempted to take an intelligent and informed interest in the progress of the current pandemic – but with only the scantiest memories of elementary statistics – it was refreshing to have a simple and succinct explanation of topics like exponential growth and the R-number.

    His final chapter includes a list of diseases for which vaccines are available, together with the dates when they first became available. It is a reminder that scientific understanding and ingenuity have saved the lives of many millions. And also that as bacteria and viruses continue to evolve and adapt, we will also need to remain vigilant and ready to respond.

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