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New book by UCR biologist discusses 12 diseases that impacted humanity
Date:11/13/2007

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Understanding past outbreaks of diseases can better prepare us for diseases in our future. This, in a nutshell, is the message of a new book by a professor emeritus of biology at the University of California, Riverside.

Irwin W. Shermans Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World (American Society for Microbiology Press, 2007), which is written for the general reader, focuses on a dozen diseases that greatly influenced society, politics and culture.

Sherman selected the diseases based on how humans have survived the onslaught of plagues, many of which led to the introduction of public health measures and other interventions aimed at stemming the spread of diseases.

The recent pandemics of SARS and HIV/AIDS clearly show that our lives, as well as the political and economic fortunes of the developed world and that of emerging nations, can be influenced by the appearance of a contagious disease, Sherman said. My purpose in writing this book is to show that, despite the challenges which an unanticipated illness may place before us, the future is not without hope or remedy.

In the book, Sherman argues that the following dozen diseases shaped history and illuminated the paths taken in finding measures to control them:

  • Porphyria and hemophilia, which influenced the political fortunes of England, Germany, Russia and the United States
  • Late blight, which spawned a wave of immigration that changed the politics of the United States
  • Cholera, which stimulated sanitary measures, promoted nursing and led to the discovery of oral rehydration therapy
  • Smallpox, which led to a vaccine that ultimately eradicated the disease
  • Plague, which promoted quarantine measures
  • Syphilis
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert

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