Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
by Sonia Shah
Sarah Crichton Books, 2016 ($26)

A pandemic is the worst kind of disease eruption—one not just isolated to a single community (an outbreak) or even a region (an epidemic) but a sickness that spreads the world over. To clarify how these plagues take such wide hold, journalist Shah tracks the history and science of past pandemics. By weaving historical evidence, expert analysis and personal anecdote (including her travels in cholera-stricken Haiti), Shah shows how political and practical factors, such as city crowding and lack of infrastructure, have paved the way for global sicknesses. She uses cholera, responsible for seven pandemics in the past two centuries, as a case study. Rather than waging war against a pandemic after it is already full-blown, Shah argues, we must focus on proactive defenses against disease to prevent the next blow.