The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease

Scribner. Jan. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781982165338. $28. MED
Kenny (Close the Pentagon), director of technology and development at the Center for Global Development, chronicles the history of infectious disease over the past five millennia. By illustrating the cyclical nature of plagues and their impact on civilization (including responses to these existential threats), the relationship between civilization growth, unmanaged infectious diseases, and globalization is revealed. Developments such as improved sanitation systems and vaccines are used as evidence to explain a significant decrease in mortality. However, emerging threats like antibiotic-resistant bacteria and calls by some groups of people to avoid vaccinations threaten to eradicate advances in the longevity of humans. Although daunting in earlier chapters, overall Kenny has written a medical history about the nature of plagues that general readers will find accessible and easy to understand. Readers intimidated by other books of similar topics need not avoid this informative and colorful history. The author brings the book up to the present day, with discussions of 21st-century outbreaks and plagues.
VERDICT Kenny’s historical assessment of humanity’s handling of infectious diseases, including both successes and failures, is a testament to the remarkable progress made in modern medicine and is a well-rounded overview of the history of plagues.
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