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Book review
Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus

by David Quammen
W. W. Norton & Company, New York, NY, USA, 2014; 128 pp; pb $11.15


Almost as if from nowhere, the Ebola virus outbreak has become one of the most-talked about diseases in recent times. The current outbreak has so far led to more than 5,500 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.  

Statistics provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the situation may become more disastrous in the coming months – a worst case scenario could see more than 1.4 million people affected by early 2015.

Author and science writer David Quammen explores the epidemic and the new fears that have arisen around the virus in his latest book, Ebola:  The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus. With a jittery global audience watching the precarious story unfold in the three most-affected West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, panic levels are rising. 

Mr. Quammen traces the story of the categorically zoonotic disease.  Zoonotic disease, he explains, is an animal infection that can be transmitted to humans.  He sheds light on how the virus emerged close to 50 years ago in the forests of Congo and how it has affected, is affecting and could affect the world at large.  

The book provides answers to questions such as what brings about a mysterious pandemic such as Ebola after years of dormancy in a mere matter of months and how such a lethal disease is so volatile and elusive.  

Many medically oriented books are often difficult to read because of the heavy use of jargon.  But Mr. Quammen’s 128-page book stands out for its easy-to-read tone. It also has a gripping presentation of the mysteries behind the virus which the author calls ‘hellaciously destructive’ and the reasons it is causing so much panic on a global scale. 

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AIDS, Politics, and Music in South Africa (The International African Library) by Fraser G. McNeill (Cambridge University Press, New York City, USA; 208pp; pb $29.99)

Contemporary Africa: Challenges and Opportunities (African Histories and Modernities) by Toyin Falola and Emmanuel M. Mbah (Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, UK; 280pp; hb $100)

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Ethnic Diversity and Economic Instability in Africa: Interdisciplinary Perspectives by Hiroyuki Hino, John Lonsdale, Gustav Ranis and Frances Stewart (Cambridge University Press, New York City, USA; 354pp; pb $36.99)

From Apartheid to Democracy: Deliberating Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa (Rhetoric and Democratic Deliberation) by Katherine Elizabeth Mack (Penn State University Press, Abington, USA; 160pp; hb $64.95)

Making Modern Girls: A History of Girlhood, Labour, and Social Development in Colonial Lagos (New African Histories) by Abosede A. George (Ohio University Press, Athens, USA; 296pp; pb $32.95)

Race, Nation, and Citizenship in Post-Colonial Africa: The Case of Tanzania (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics) by Ronald Aminzade (Cambridge University Press, New York City, USA; 446pp; pb $32.99)

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Health Campaign