Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in Science & Technology
Finalist for the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism
Scientists agree that a pathogen is likely to cause a global pandemic in the near future. But which one? And how?
Over the past fifty years, more than three hundred infectious diseases have either newly emerged or reemerged, appearing in territories where they’ve never been seen before. Ninety percent of epidemiologists expect that one of them will cause a deadly pandemic sometime in the next two generations. It could be Ebola, avian flu, a drug-resistant superbug, or something completely new. While we can’t know which pathogen will cause the next pandemic, by unraveling the story of how pathogens have caused pandemics in the past, we can make predictions about the future. In Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, the prizewinning journalist Sonia Shah—whose book on malaria, The Fever, was called a “tour-de-force history” (The New York Times) and “revelatory” (The New Republic)—interweaves history, original reportage, and personal narrative to explore the origins of contagions, drawing parallels between cholera, one of history’s most deadly and disruptive pandemic-causing pathogens, and the new diseases that stalk humankind today.
To reveal how a new pandemic might develop, Sonia Shah tracks each stage of cholera’s dramatic journey, from its emergence in the South Asian hinterlands as a harmless microbe to its rapid dispersal across the nineteenth-century world, all the way to its latest beachhead in Haiti. Along the way she reports on the pathogens now following in cholera’s footsteps, from the MRSA bacterium that besieges her own family to the never-before-seen killers coming out of China’s wet markets, the surgical wards of New Delhi, and the suburban backyards of the East Coast.
By delving into the convoluted science, strange politics, and checkered history of one of the world’s deadliest diseases, Pandemic reveals what the next global contagion might look like—and what we can do to prevent it.
“Shah proves a disquieting Virgil, guiding us through the hells ruled by [infectious diseases] . . . the power of Shah's account lies in her ability to track simultaneously the multiple dimensions of the public-health crises we are facing.”—Chicago Tribune
"The world’s ability to put the lid on pandemics has come a long way since the days when the plague, cholera and smallpox ravaged unchecked. Ms Shah’s book is a superbly written account of how we got here and what might await us."—The Economist
“Shrewdly articulated . . . thought-provoking and well-documented”—Nature Microbiology
“[A] grounded, bracingly intelligent study”—Nature
“Investigative science journalist Shah (The Fever, 2011) is at it again, and if the words, and beyond, in her latest book’s subtitle don’t grab a reader’s attention, they should . . . Yes, Shah is back and in rare form. And this time it’s personal.”—Donna Chavez, Booklist (starred review)
“In this absorbing, complex, and ominous look at the dangers posed by pathogens in our daily lives, science journalist Shah (The Fever) cautions that there are no easy solutions . . . Shah’s warning is certainly troubling, and this important medical and social history is worthy of attention—and action."—Publishers Weekly