Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari
Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari
Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari
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Price: $7.01 FREE for Members
Type: eBook
Released:
Publisher: Wiley
Page Count: 276
Format: pdf
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0471155896
ISBN-13: 9780471155898
User Rating: 3.6667 out of 5 Stars! (3 Votes)

Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari pdf


Nicholas Bakalar ebook


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Germs are everywhere, and for most readers, longtime science writer Bakalar's intriguing, solidly based safari through the world of germs will introduce striking discoveries and useful scientific thought processes. For those in the general population, the kitchen is probably the room with the greatest potential for trouble with germs; on the other, er, hand, toilet seats are generally among the home's cleanest locales--surely an encouragement to potential readers of this book and related literature. Although regular hand washing can kill off or slow down infections just about anywhere, Bakalar's scrutiny of other "wisdom" (mostly advertising and popular) yields more mixed assessments. Pet keeping, for instance, can improve the psychological outlook of young and old but also spread germs, because even adopting animals from pounds often requires the exchange of genuinely filthy lucre. Meanwhile, Bakalar's explorations in "cleaner than clean" grocery store aisles and of the bottled water proposed for healthful drinking illuminate the brightest pages of current financial media. A glossary helpfully translates widely used but often not as widely known acronyms and other terms. William BeattyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

In the last 12 months Americans have watched as germs made the headlines: anthrax, West Nile virus, bubonic plague and outbreaks of illness on cruise ships. Bakalar (Hepatitis A to G) explains where the enemy is lurking and how to defeat it. The most likely place to find bacteria? On, and in, your own body - but many of these are actually beneficial or at least benign. The kitchen is the main battleground in the home in the war against salmonella and campylobacter. Many foods come from the market carrying a battalion of germs, but Bakalar discusses the safest ways to chop, cook and clean up to minimize the risk. The bathroom is second as a home health hazard. Flushing the toilet actually aerosolizes water droplets (and germs), so put the seat and lid down, guys. Bakalar discusses potential health risks from pets: dogs are the safest, but you might want to think twice about iguanas and other reptiles. His excellent chapter on childhood diseases and vaccines should be required reading for parents, and teenagers should be plunked down in a chair with the chapter on sexually transmitted diseases. Bakalar doesn't miss much: he overlooks histoplasmosis, a significant health problem in towns with birds roosting on downtown buildings, and he leaves out anthrax although he discusses smallpox. His writing is witty, and he gives all the details of germs and illnesses without medical school jargon. In short, according to this book, the best defense against germs is what your mother always told you: Wash your hands. Often. (Jan.) (Publishers Weekly, December 23, 2002)


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| 2 out of 5 Stars!


Very informative, not necessarily very entertaining

Germs, primarily made up of bacteria and viruses, are as ubiquitous as air-they live everywhere in our homes, including inside our bodies. The book seeks to provide us with a practical guide for living with germs in a way that reduces the risks of incurring harm. He opens with a general discussion of what constitutes a germ, and catalogues some of the more notorious types and species. He then devotes a chapter each to the germs in a different area of our lives: in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in laundry, in children and child feces, in sexual acts (mostly STDs), in pets, flu and cold germs, in drinking water, in the outdoors, in public areas, and finally, a discussion of what products are beneficial in dealing with germs.
The Good and the Bad:
I was really looking forward to this book, but found it to be a disappointment.
The back cover promises that the book is "often delightfully funny," but I didn't really get that at all. It is less dry than, for example, a research paper on the same topic, but it falls far short of similar books about interesting facets of life (the book "Cod" comes to mind). The writing was far too bogged down in technical terms, and the author was far more focused on comprehensiveness than he should have been. The witticisms were just too few and far between to bridge the gaps.
I think a better approach, when given this topic, would be to gather together all of the interesting facts, myths, anecdotes, historical anomalies, etc., and tried to find an organization system that would best present them all. But this author has instead taken all of the information that's out there, irrespective of the likelihood that it would be of interest to the general reader, and given each microbe its due. There is an effort to include interesting anecdotes, the large majority of which involve some sort of outbreak of sickness in one part of the country or other, but they fall short of the ideal. The author seems to be primarily a public health expert, and secondarily an author (although he has written ten books).
This extends to the handful of illustrations in the book (tellingly labeled "Figures" as in a scientific paper), which are chosen prevention behavior, and invites us to find our own comfort level.
What I learned:
Lots of information in this book. My take, after reading the book, is that being extremely vigilant against germs will reduce my chances of contracting a serious illness from something like one in a hundred thousand to one in five hundred thousand (my numbers based on an impression, not remotely scientifically accurate). When it comes to mild illnesses, such as colds and diarrhea-inducing stomach ailments, a slob might be in for five such episodes per year, while a very germ-vigilant person might be in for one episode per year. So, if the added security and freedom from illness are important to you, invest the time and energy needed to stay away from potentially harmful germs. But if you're willing to take your chances, don't worry about it.
One interesting side note was the misleading claims of cleaning products that have antibacterial agents in them. He cites several studies that show that there is no benefit to using them, and a few others that imply that they might actually cause some harm. So when it comes to antibacterial or anti-microbial products, avoid them. This was one of the best chapters in the book, and I wish it had come a little earlier.

| 5 out of 5 Stars!


Interesting and valuable information, well-presented

  

The photo on the cover somehow hints at the sometimes ironic expression within. The cover shows a fifties housewife in black heels, nylons, lipstick, a modest hairdo and a house dress covered clean persona represents the germaphobe in all of us--a class of humanity to which I belong and to which science writer Bakalar has aimed his book. Her pleased sense that her sparkling kitchen is largely germ-free is of course a delusion. Read and be revolted!As far as readability goes, this is the best general-information book on germs that I have read, and I have read several. What Bakalar does so very well is inform, period. He also has a witty and easy flowing style that makes the pages turn. He is a writer who loves to explain how the microbial world of disease works. He likes to turn away misconceptions and debunk urban myths without taking himself too seriously. He can be slyly funny as when he notes that house mice "are in general not a reservoir of serious human illness," but that "any restaurant that allows them to frolic in the presence of diners is likely to be out of business soon." Or when he identifies electrocuting insect traps that "may actually spread germs into the air" as "the kind that produce that satisfying buzz every time they kill a fly." (p. 197)He can also be profound. Consider this from page 15: "Viruses, bacteria, archaea, prions, protozoa, and fungi all exist in nature. Disease does not. Disease is a human invention, not a phenomenon that exists out there apart from us." He adds that from the point of view of the disease agent, "the infection is merely life." And indeed, "From the point of view of some organisms, human beings themselves are a disease." He notes that tigers, for example, have a bad case of "humans."One of the myths that he debunks that I had long believed was that the recycled air in passenger airplanes was a significant cause of disease. Turns out that in older airplanes such as DC-9s and 727s the air is not recycled at all but drawn entirely from outside the plane. In newer airplanes "half the cabin air is recirculated" but it is filtered better and refreshed more often than in office buildings. (pp. 209-210)Chapter headings include The Contaminated Kitchen, Toilet Training, Kids and Microbes, Microbes and Your Sex Life, Pets and Their Germs, Water and What's in It, Germs in Public Places, etc. Bakalar ends the book with a chapter on products you can buy at the store that may or may not kill germs and improve your health. Naturally all sorts of ugly microbes make their appearance including plague, West Nile virus, smallpox, TB, cholera, etc. as well as some not so charming vectors: mice, rats, mosquitoes, ticks, bats, fleas, and their brethren, cockroaches, flies and things that creep in the night.There is a 15-page glossary and there are footnotes arranged by chapter (a dense paragraph for each) at the back of the book that you can examine for further information. The notes are not subscripted nor referenced by page. I'm not sure I like this but it does unclutter the text.

| 4 out of 5 Stars!


Good reading but no surprises

I disagree with the first reviewer who gave this book a low rating. I think it's a pretty good overview of the details of which germs cause what illness, and how they're spread.I think the author does a nice job of handling what could be a highly technical subject. The book is comprehensible to the layperson, yet still difficult enough that you probably ought to have had college-level sciences in order to understand its complexity.I was hoping that the book (especially considering the picture of the kitchen on the cover) would offer me something new regarding keeping germs and illness away from my family. However, it does not go far beyond the standard prevention tactics of good handwashing and modern sanitation. Good handwashing is particularly emphasized.Diseases and illnesses such as smallpox and lyme disease and West Nile and herpes are handled in detail. It's a useful and factual introduction to bacteriology and contagious diseases, and includes some historical references, in a readable text.

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