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The Chickens Fight Back

The Chickens Fight Back: Pandemic Panics and Deadly Diseases that Jump from Animals to Humans (Greystone Books, 2007)

The Ecology and Culture of Diseases Other Animals Share with People

Emerging diseases like mad cow, SARS, and avian flu are — for the moment, at least — far more prevalent in animals than in humans. Still, the knowledge that measles, TB, and smallpox were at one time “emerging” diseases that eventually made a permanent, and quite deadly, jump to humans gives epidemiologists pause.

The Chickens Fight Back examines the various groups of animal diseases, explains what attracts them to the human population — from food to sex to living conditions — and offers suggestions for keeping them at bay. It also points out that diseases must be looked at from an ecological, cultural, and economic point of view as well as from a biological standpoint. Cooking meat till its well done and slathering on insect repellent for a hike in the woods are effective preventative measures, but as David Waltner-Toews notes, it’s more important to fundamentally rethink humankind’s place in the world.

Watch David’s interview on George Strombolopolous’ The Hour here.

Alexander Varty, Georgia Strait, June 13, 2007 – This is definitely one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” scenarios. If you have any interest at all in epidemiology, modern medicine, or the survival of the human race, do read Ontario veterinarian and University of Guelph professor David Waltner-Toews’s The Chickens Fight Back: Pandemic Panics and Deadly Diseases That Jump From Animals to Humans. But if you’re feeling feverish and nauseous, do not, as I did, bring it into bed for a little light reading.

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