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Alan P. Zelicoff, M.D. & Michael Bellomo
New York: AMACOM, 2005
RA650.5 .Z45 2005

WEST NILE. BIRD FLU. HANTAVIRUS. SARS. ANTHRAX. Though well-publicized, recent outbreaks of these diseases have been relatively small. But is our luck running out?

The truth is, though the U.S. is a world leader in science and medicine, its public health system is alarmingly underequipped to respond to a major outbreak. The rest of the world may be at even higher risk. The possible triggers of an epidemic are numerous environmental pressures that compound naturally occurring zoological diseases; livestock contamination and industrial accidents; bioterrorism, and more. And although effective treatments may be available, getting those treatments to hundreds, thousands, or millions of people quickly is another matter.

At once frightening and reassuring, Microbe exposes conditions conducive to major biological crises: gaps in information and communication chains, deployment and distribution strategies, and containment plans, and more. But it also presents practical approaches that, if implemented, will go a long way to neutralize or reduce those threats. The book looks at the promise of: (1) The Syndrome Reporting Information System (SYRIS): a model or networking healthcare, safety, and government agencies and personnel, SYRIS allows professionals to rapidly draw connections among seemingly isolated cases - and detect outbreaks, epidemics, and deliberate attacks sooner. (2) DNA-based vaccines, which can be formulated and manufactured much more quickly than traditional live or attenuated-organism vaccines. (3) The integration of the medical, veterinary, and public health sectors toward a more united front against biological events of all types.

Deploying these and other preventative and diagnostic tools nationwide is a huge challenge, one we must undertake without delay. "If you started off with a clean sheet of paper," say the authors, "and were asked to come up with a system that was more exquisitely poised to fail when you need it most, you couldn't create anything worse than the system we currently have."

These are sobering words, that bring to light a stunning national security shortfall. Luckily, Microbe also offers words of wisdom, comfort, and immeasurable constructive value - if only we are wise enough to heed them.

Quoted from dust jacket.