Inferno is Steven Hatch's every personal experience of the ebola outbreak in West Africa. The initial cases of the virus were in Guinea but soon, Liberia was the centre of the horror. Dr. Hatch had worked as an infectious disease specialist in Monrovia, Liberia's capital. He went home but six months later when the ebola epidemic was in full bloom and the world was reacting with paranoia and fear, he came back to work in a treatment centre in Bong county. The conditions were primitive and the training people received didn't prepare them for working in searing heat while wearing PPE or personal protective gear. Tyvek suits, taped where they met the shoes, three layers of latex gloves, hoods and goggles. The outfits were awkward to move in, the goggles fogged up making vision difficult and the sweat pooled in the headgear and the entire PPE. For their own protection, medical personnel had to wear the suits whenever they dealt with patients. There was no way to know whether someone with a fever was developing ebola, suffering a malaria attack or presenting with some other tropical fever.
There were two main areas in the ebola centre, one for those sick and awaiting diagnosis and one for those whose blood tests confirmed ebola. Ebola confirmation wasn't a for-sure death sentence but many people died because there was no drug to treat it, dehydration was a major problem since rather than bleeding out (as books like The Hot Zone described), people suffered horrendous nausea and diarrhea. They would get weaker and weaker and finally die. Age or status didn't matter. Healthy adults, children, old people and babies, all were possible hosts for the virus.
Survivors had to deal with unenviable problems. Some no longer had any family, some were afraid to go back to their villages because they might be killed for carrying the virus, and other people were afraid they might still be contagious. The entire country was thrown into chaos. For Hatch, the ebola epidemic and its consequences were his personal hell, hence the book's title.
At the end of the book, Dr. Hatch appeals to people to get their children vaccinated against measles. After he returned from Bong County, there was a mini-outbreak of the disease in visitors to Disneyland. He points out that compared to measles, ebola is relatively difficult to spread. An infected person will likely only infect two others because the virus is passed by touch (contact.) Measles is airborne and although not as virulent as ebola, it can disable and kill. Someone with measles can pass the virus to 18 others.
This book exposes the nasty political atmosphere that developes and the 'dog and pony' show that the media turns the outbreak into. When Dr, Steven Duncan returns to the US after working with ebola patients and dies from the disease himself, panic ensues. It turns out SARS is much more a virus to fear.
Inferno reveals some of the problems both domestic and international that dealing with a dangerous disease outbreak causes. There is much more than the immediate danger and the urgent need to treat those affected.
Years ago when my kids were toddlers, my brother said, "Have you ever thought of keeping sugar away from them completely?" Terry was diabetic (maybe the condition was exacerbated by the many fine rye and cokes he consumed) but it turns out he may have had a point. The Case Against Sugar presents a history of sugar (Did you know that desserts were an invention of the 1850's and that originally only the aristocrat class in Britain could afford sugar?) that reveals the efforts to import sugar, then to grow sugar beets, the use of slave labour and finally the efforts of Big Sugar (much like Big Tobacco) to market sugar to women and children. There is a lot of suppressed or under-reported research to implicate our huge sugar consumption with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and Alzheimers. In short, the diseases of North America and Europe. As each indigenous culture's taste turns to sugar, the incidence (or in some cases, the actual appearance) of these diseases increases. We could be poisoning ourselves. Table sugar is about half glucose and half fructose. Fructose follows a different metabolic pathway than glucose and is processed in the liver. It doesn't show up in blood sugar BUT it stimulates fat production and insulin resistance which is the cause of type 2 diabetes. The trend of food processors to use high fructose corn syrup as a sweetner is likely developing more and more type 2, obese diabetics.
Gary Taubes is a science writer and admits that he is biased against sugar. He has included an extensive section and notes to support his opinions. The biggest problem with researching the effect of sugar on our health is the complexity of the kind of nutritional studies that need to be done. The Case Against Sugar isn't the easiest read but it certainly made me think.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.