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Invisible Enemies: Stories of Infectious Disease

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Updated to include the most recent breakthroughs First published in 1998, here are the surprisingly fascinating stories of seven diseases that changed the course of human history - updated to reflect new medical and social developments such as: - the ravages of AIDS in Africa, Asia, and other locations - the bioterror threat posed by smallpox eradication - a primitive yet ef Updated to include the most recent breakthroughs First published in 1998, here are the surprisingly fascinating stories of seven diseases that changed the course of human history - updated to reflect new medical and social developments such as: - the ravages of AIDS in Africa, Asia, and other locations - the bioterror threat posed by smallpox eradication - a primitive yet effective new measure for fighting cholera in India - an important new drug to treat malaria - and more Illustrated with over fifty reproductions of photographs, newspaper cartoons, public health posters, and the like, Invisible Enemies is an intense and intriguing mix of history, biography, and biology.


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Updated to include the most recent breakthroughs First published in 1998, here are the surprisingly fascinating stories of seven diseases that changed the course of human history - updated to reflect new medical and social developments such as: - the ravages of AIDS in Africa, Asia, and other locations - the bioterror threat posed by smallpox eradication - a primitive yet ef Updated to include the most recent breakthroughs First published in 1998, here are the surprisingly fascinating stories of seven diseases that changed the course of human history - updated to reflect new medical and social developments such as: - the ravages of AIDS in Africa, Asia, and other locations - the bioterror threat posed by smallpox eradication - a primitive yet effective new measure for fighting cholera in India - an important new drug to treat malaria - and more Illustrated with over fifty reproductions of photographs, newspaper cartoons, public health posters, and the like, Invisible Enemies is an intense and intriguing mix of history, biography, and biology.

30 review for Invisible Enemies: Stories of Infectious Disease

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    It is nuts to think about how different human history would have been without infectious diseases. Would colonial forces have failed to take over the Americas if smallpox hadn't helped them out? Or maybe they would have had an even greater empire were it not for malaria! Leprosy is really interesting, in that it has a much different and worse stigma attached to it than a lot of other infectious diseases because it somehow got linked with a religious uncleanliness. This interesting story about mal It is nuts to think about how different human history would have been without infectious diseases. Would colonial forces have failed to take over the Americas if smallpox hadn't helped them out? Or maybe they would have had an even greater empire were it not for malaria! Leprosy is really interesting, in that it has a much different and worse stigma attached to it than a lot of other infectious diseases because it somehow got linked with a religious uncleanliness. This interesting story about malaria shows how everything is connected: in Borneo DDT was used to kill mosquitoes, but roaches also ingested it and passed it on to the lizards who ate them, who then got so sick that the cats could start catching and eating them, who then died so there was nothing to stop the rats from coming into the villages, which then sparked fear of plague! I also thought it was interesting that Florence Nightingale supposedly thought that germ theory was about as good a hypothesis as witchcraft (though this website debunks that claim). The writing style was sophisticated yet simple enough to understand. A good book for young adults and children who are strong readers.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Valerie McEnroe

    I was surprised by how readable this book is. Farrell uses a lot of anecdotes and examples that make the information more interesting. Many books of this type tend to be too "dry" for young readers, but this one is an exception. Each chapter covers a different disease, making it easy to read in chunks. Read it, set it aside, read something else, then come back to it for another dose of disease. Whole books that focus on one disease tend to get boring. This one doesn't have that problem. The disea I was surprised by how readable this book is. Farrell uses a lot of anecdotes and examples that make the information more interesting. Many books of this type tend to be too "dry" for young readers, but this one is an exception. Each chapter covers a different disease, making it easy to read in chunks. Read it, set it aside, read something else, then come back to it for another dose of disease. Whole books that focus on one disease tend to get boring. This one doesn't have that problem. The diseases covered in the book are: Smallpox, Leprosy, Bubonic Plague, Tuberculosis, Malaria, Cholera, and AIDS. I found something exciting about each one. Smallpox: Eradicated from the earth. Leprosy: Extremely hard to get. Bubonic Plague: Impossible to eradicate because it afflicts many different species. Tuberculosis: Easily becomes immune to antibiotics. Malaria: Easy to transmit through mosquitoes; no socioeconomic class safe. Cholera: Transmitted through contaminated water. AIDS: No cure because it attacks immune system. I usually never purchase nonfiction books published more than 10 years ago, but this one still has a current feel about it. The only information that might be a little dated is the information about AIDS, since that is a disease we are still trying to beat. I like the way the author wraps it all up by saying "Over the centuries, in the course of these battles, we humans have learned all sorts of things about these bugs: we have found them out, in their tiny world, and then discovered the tricks they employ to become such successful killers. And they have helped us to discover much about ourselves as well, both about our bodies and our spirit."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Jeanette Farrell writes a fascinating history of some of the world worst infectious diseases. Each chapter is written like a mystery novel. Highly recommend even for older children- though I would censor the last chapter (AIDS) as some of the information though accurate is of a sensitive subject matter .

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    My experince as a person with M.E. affected how I thought about the issues in this book and I cannot separate those reactions from my general thoughts about the book for this review. To see the ways in which other illnesses have been treated and dealt with by government and society and to compare that with the ways Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) has been dealt with was just fascinating. For example, in 1900 in the US there was an outbreak of plague in a booming seaport town (California) and with My experince as a person with M.E. affected how I thought about the issues in this book and I cannot separate those reactions from my general thoughts about the book for this review. To see the ways in which other illnesses have been treated and dealt with by government and society and to compare that with the ways Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) has been dealt with was just fascinating. For example, in 1900 in the US there was an outbreak of plague in a booming seaport town (California) and with plague came the sensible calls for quarantine to stop its spread. But it never happened. Business leaders, aware that huge sums of money were to be lost if they were unable to operate for such a long period of time, either refused to acknowledge the epidemic at all or else they claimed that it was merely a disease confined to the Chinese - as by mere chance the first plague victim happened to be Chinese. The medical authorities accordingly took action against the Chinese and there was no quarantine. Meanwhile all but one of the city's newspapers refused to print news of plague. The governor declared, to protect business interests, that there was no plague. Despite there being very good evidence that indeed, plague was rampant, he then fired all the medical authorities who dared to disagree with his warped views. He even proclaimed that it should be made a felony to report plague in the town. (This rings so many bells re ME!) The book also talks about how medicine began to shift from valuing careful observation of patients and their symptoms to doctors not seeing or believing anything that was not written in a book no matter what they saw. "For instance, although, unlike most Greek anatomists, medieval anatomists, medieval physicians dissected dead bodies, and therefore had the opportunity to correct some big mistakes in the Greek books on anatomy, instead they had the Greek books on anatomy read out loud while they dissected, and tried to describe it the way the Greeks believed it to be" (Again this rings so many bells re ME! This problem has not gone away and may even be becoming much worse as time progresses.) It also talks about how with a slow moving disease that sometimes improves for periods of time all on its own, how many different `treatments' come to be considered useful for the condition when in reality it is all just coincidence. (This irritating phenomenon is not just particular to ME!) Society refusing to accept a new illness is not at all a phenomenon unique to M.E. either, indeed in some ways we have been dealt with far less harshly than some sufferers of previous outbreaks of other illnesses have been. Tens of thousands of innocent Jewish people have been tortured and burned alive because they were blamed for causing plague (which was really just an excuse to escalate already existing discrimination and persecution) and people with Leprosy (Hanson's disease) have been buried alive - these are just two examples of many. It makes it feel so much less personal somehow to know that FOR CENTURIES awful things have been done to people who were unlucky enough to become ill with the `wrong' illnesses. This book contains just enough detail to get a basic overview of all seven diseases. It also has some fascinating myth-busting facts about Leprosy, now known as Hanson's disease. It tells about how 90% of people could not get it if they tried and the other 10% would have to live with someone with the disease for years to even have the chance of getting it!! Leprosy (Hanson's) is one of the very least contagious and least deadly illnesses there is, yet people with leprosy were known as `untouchables' and were often shunned if not actively attacked. Most of this happened merely because there was an error in translation in a religious text, which meant that the word Leprosy and the word sin were confused, and so Leprosy was seen as a sign of sin rather than of disease. People with Leprosy have even buried alive just for having the illness. If only society had learned form this mistake... The only bad bit in this book is that it doesn't include M.E. as it very much could. This is a really interesting read to give you perhaps more insight into how diseases have been dealt with by our society - and why we all need to be cautious about what we are told about different diseases today. I recommend it to M.E. patients and also to everyone else as well. Quote: "On most days, we go about our business not thinking about our body, merely using it to get where we want to go. But when we get sick we can think of nothing but our aching head or upset stomach. We feel at the mercy of forces beyond our control. Infectious diseases have another troubling aspect: sometimes the disease comes to us from another person. This can turn the fear of disease into fear of one another. It is in this response to fear that humans have been both incredibly brave and incredibly cruel." Jodi Bassett, The Hummingbirds' Foundation for M.E.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan A Garr

    Jeanette Farrell's Invisible Enemies teaches us about 7 infectious diseases through the art of story telling. This book matches literature with science in a way that takes out the intimidation of learning scientific terms or phrases. She introduces us to the "tiny giants" with the story of how George Washington died. Our first president died from a sore throat. She describes how three doctors were called in and quickly began the most recommended treatments of the day: gargling with vinegar and s Jeanette Farrell's Invisible Enemies teaches us about 7 infectious diseases through the art of story telling. This book matches literature with science in a way that takes out the intimidation of learning scientific terms or phrases. She introduces us to the "tiny giants" with the story of how George Washington died. Our first president died from a sore throat. She describes how three doctors were called in and quickly began the most recommended treatments of the day: gargling with vinegar and sage, undergoing an enema, raising blisters, rubbing vinegar on his throat and finally draining two quarts of blood. The book covers the stories of small pox, leprosy, plague, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera and AIDS. It teaches us about the scientists who lead the way to understand various infectious diseases, how to treat them, and most importantly how the battle of disease is far from over. Because each story of a particular disease is told from beginning, middle, end, the information is highly accessible. The reader can relate to the story being told rather than getting lost in scientific language. We learn how a particular infectious disease tormented humanity and the ways in which humans fought back. The author does an incredible job revealing how human response to infectious disease shows us to be incredibly brave, as well as incredibly cruel. Learning about infectious disease from a scientific lens, as well as a social one, reveals the truth that certain people have access to treatments while others suffer. You learn about how the scientists used observation and the scientific method to experiment with ways to develop vaccinations and prevent the spread of disease. This book will make you think! You will wonder about why some infectious diseases still exist in the world when they are under control in most countries. You are astonished by the public health industry--the ways in which people organize to inform others about the need to get vaccinations and simple ways they might be able to control the spread of infectious disease. I don't think you can walk away from this read without realizing or reminding yourself that we are all in this world together, and that what happens on one side of the globe impacts us all. We are all a part of a global community. Thank goodness for all those science people out there!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Hulbert

    UPDATE: I read this book again and it still deserves 5 stars. Amazing book, so easy to read, so in-depth, great writing, just a really truly incredible book here. So much fun to read during a pandemic. --------------- This book was *so good*. As someone who didn't know much about these diseases before reading this book, I felt like I got a very thorough and fascinating picture on each one, as well as how they shaped parts of history and humanity. I had never realized what a major impact some of th UPDATE: I read this book again and it still deserves 5 stars. Amazing book, so easy to read, so in-depth, great writing, just a really truly incredible book here. So much fun to read during a pandemic. --------------- This book was *so good*. As someone who didn't know much about these diseases before reading this book, I felt like I got a very thorough and fascinating picture on each one, as well as how they shaped parts of history and humanity. I had never realized what a major impact some of these things have really had on us. It made me think about how fragile some of our social constructs are when faced with mortal terror like these diseases, and how important science is to prevent and cure stuff like this. I loaned this to a friend and never got it back, but I'm happy she enjoyed it. But I need to pick up another copy for myself because it's something I'd like to reread. Excellent book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diamanda

    I read this book accidentally. My mom picked it up from the library's withdrawn section thinking I'd like it. A year later after sitting in my attic in a pool of other unread books, I saw it. I had no plan of reading it, but thought I should read the first page just to see what it was about. An hour later and I hadn't put it down. It captivates you from the beginning, always leaving the question of what more is humanity capable of? This book puts the relevance of disease in the history of humank I read this book accidentally. My mom picked it up from the library's withdrawn section thinking I'd like it. A year later after sitting in my attic in a pool of other unread books, I saw it. I had no plan of reading it, but thought I should read the first page just to see what it was about. An hour later and I hadn't put it down. It captivates you from the beginning, always leaving the question of what more is humanity capable of? This book puts the relevance of disease in the history of humankind into perspective. I've read this book twice now and I will say that it was my inspiration for my goal to become an epidemiologist. It is informational yet entertaining at the same time. Wonderfully written. If I maintain this dream (I have four years to change my mind and I've also been considering neurology) I will have none other than Jeanette Farrell to thank.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Judy Beaudette

    What I loved about this book was the overflow of fascinating details about each disease throughout its history. The chapter on each microbe reads like a story, with believable and imperfect characters and a plot line to boot. My grandfather had TB in the 30's, so I knew about the cutting-edge treatment of removing a patient's ribs and deflating the infected lung with a stone from the nearby river, but who knew that at one time a concoction of burned vulture lungs mixed with wine & lily blossoms What I loved about this book was the overflow of fascinating details about each disease throughout its history. The chapter on each microbe reads like a story, with believable and imperfect characters and a plot line to boot. My grandfather had TB in the 30's, so I knew about the cutting-edge treatment of removing a patient's ribs and deflating the infected lung with a stone from the nearby river, but who knew that at one time a concoction of burned vulture lungs mixed with wine & lily blossoms was thought to cure TB?? I would recommend this book to middle-school readers who are interested in human history, medicine or microbes -- it is very well written and keeps the readers' interest throughout.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    This may not be my typical read, but I truly couldn't put it down. It offers insight into diseases, but also human kind in the way we deal, or don't, with the diseases and carriers. The writing style is incredibly easy to follow along with and offers information in an almost conversational manner. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the past, but also those who are looking ahead to where we will be without changes in our medical care. Farrell raises interesting questions without fear m This may not be my typical read, but I truly couldn't put it down. It offers insight into diseases, but also human kind in the way we deal, or don't, with the diseases and carriers. The writing style is incredibly easy to follow along with and offers information in an almost conversational manner. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the past, but also those who are looking ahead to where we will be without changes in our medical care. Farrell raises interesting questions without fear mongering. Definitely worth a few hours of your time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christine Canaria

    If you like infectious diseases and history, this book is AWESOME. I picked it up in the library when I was working as a teacher because there were mandatory reading times on a daily basis. This book was hard to put down. I like the general format of learning about the disease from a social context and how it affected victims, learning about the mechanics of the diseases and then eventually how people chose to combat disease. This was definitely one of those situations where I didn't want the bo If you like infectious diseases and history, this book is AWESOME. I picked it up in the library when I was working as a teacher because there were mandatory reading times on a daily basis. This book was hard to put down. I like the general format of learning about the disease from a social context and how it affected victims, learning about the mechanics of the diseases and then eventually how people chose to combat disease. This was definitely one of those situations where I didn't want the book to end.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julie King

    I found this book absolutely fascinating! From how diseases are spread to how they can be treated, this book follows the discovery of seven different infectious diseases: smallpox, leprosy, plague, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, and AIDS. This book is part history lesson, part science class, and even shows how germs are constantly evolving and that diseases will continue to plague us as humans.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nikwigize Tumaini

    I really like this book .i think its a really intersting for anyone who loves reading about diseases and history With them. And it gives a great history of certain Diseases. It this about 7 diseases trata changed the course of human history. Malaria , cholera , leprose, smalpox and AIDs Have arouded terror wherever the y Have apearse.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Pham

    This was a very information story of human persistence in the midst of disease epidemics. It told of the human spirit to fight and survive as it fought of unknown deadly diseases such as smallpox, tuberculosis, the plague, and AIDS. I found it very informational and it fed my curiosity of how mankind advanced in medicine and technology.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Strange

    Well written, illustrated with historical graphics, this history of seven major historical diseases covers both the disease itself and how it is spread and the history of each disease. Gory and excellent, but the last disease covered is AIDS, so if you're a sensitive reader, you may be offended by some of the descriptions of sexual behavior. Well written, illustrated with historical graphics, this history of seven major historical diseases covers both the disease itself and how it is spread and the history of each disease. Gory and excellent, but the last disease covered is AIDS, so if you're a sensitive reader, you may be offended by some of the descriptions of sexual behavior.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joan Concilio

    An excellent backgrounder for teens and adults alike. I have been studying infectious diseases on my own for 15 years and still learned new stuff, and it's written in a way that's approachable for me to share big chunks with my 14-year-old daughter, who isn't nearly as into medicine as I am but likes stories about how diseases are found and cured. An excellent backgrounder for teens and adults alike. I have been studying infectious diseases on my own for 15 years and still learned new stuff, and it's written in a way that's approachable for me to share big chunks with my 14-year-old daughter, who isn't nearly as into medicine as I am but likes stories about how diseases are found and cured.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    Wow! My mom is a nurse, but I have never been interested in medical things. This book changed my mind. It was a fascinating study of seven major infectious diseases and their impacts on the world. There were also things I learned that in my mind originally had nothing to do with diseases. I love word origins.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kim Dennis

    I got this book for free from a school library that was doing some cleaning out. I was interested, because it talks about several diseases that I deal with in teaching history. What surprised me was how readable it was. I found that I really enjoyed learning about the history of different diseases in language that a normal person can understand. :)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Linnae

    I must have read the pre-revised edition, because that cover does not look familiar at all. I would be interested to learn the updates, though. Includes short histories of AIDS, ebola, plague, leprosy, and more.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachell

    I really, really liked this book. It was the most brilliant combination of sociology, biology and history I have ever read. I actually looked forward to reading it--witty, factual, fascinating. Definitely recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Again, another disease book...this one had a lot of information that I haven't read in other books. It was published in 1998 so some of the information should be updated, but it was fascinating read. Again, another disease book...this one had a lot of information that I haven't read in other books. It was published in 1998 so some of the information should be updated, but it was fascinating read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Trina

    Good, but written towards a teen audience which was not what I expected. It was also a little condescending at times.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    I was surprised by how entertaining this book was, was well as being highly educational. Very well written.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erika Victoria

    Amazing book. Full of non-graphic information, these facts will not be forgotten anytime soon. A book to read and remember.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becky Ahrendsen

    easy to read, so interesting to see history of smallpox, leprosy, plague, TB, Mlaria, cholera, aids.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is absolutely a great read! I'm not a fan of science but this book was hard to put down. So was its companion, "Invisible Allies." This is absolutely a great read! I'm not a fan of science but this book was hard to put down. So was its companion, "Invisible Allies."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This book was very informative. The author did a wonderful job of describing not only the history of the diseases, but also described the impact that the diseases had on society.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Yana Maloylo

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allison

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