REVIEW: On Pandemics by David Waltner-Toews

In brief: A review of many zoonoses that can cause both epidemics and pandemics.

The good: Very dry wit at times.

The not-so-good: Sometimes the details are rather dry.

Why I chose it: Reading to learn and educate myself on pandemics.

Year: 2020 (originally published 2007 as The Chickens Fight Back)

Pages: 262

Publisher: Black Inc

Rating: 7 out of 10

Continuing my reading of anything and everything related to pandemics, I couldn’t help but jump at one with pandemic in the title. This is an updated edition of David Waltner-Toews’ The Chickens Fight Back, published in 2007. There are references to COVID-19 in this book but primarily this is a book about various diseases which can be transmitted to humans via animals. Waltner-Toews is an epidemiologist and veterinarian and it’s clear that his passion is in diseases that cross the animal kingdom.

If you’re looking for a book that talks about the people and the steps taken during a pandemic, this isn’t it. The book is firmly rooted in the biology and transmission of zoonoses. Waltner-Toews clearly has a lot of knowledge and experience in this field, much of it pertaining to animals (which makes sense because they are the ones transmitting these diseases to humans). For me, I’m not as interested in the animal vectors except that they exist. There is also a reasonable amount of microbiology in this book, which is rather dry at times. The author has a considerable amount of wit and certainly isn’t afraid to put his ideas, including politics and religion forward. More humour may have improved this book for me, particularly after a day of living the pandemic reality. At times, it was too dry to hold my interest. At others, it was fascinating. The problem for me was that I didn’t know what I was going to get each night, which led to me not picking up the book and watching Netflix…

I think if you’re looking for a general education on zoonoses this would be of interest. But although these micro-organisms can and have caused epidemics and pandemics, this book is not focused on the human response. I feel the title is misleading to the lay reader and the original title would have sufficed for the second edition.

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