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January 17, 1996

The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance

Author Affiliations

Regional Medical Center at Memphis Memphis, Tenn

JAMA. 1996;275(3):249-250. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530270089042

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"Zaire Widens Sealed-Off Region to Contain Ebola" read a recent headline in the local newspaper. A small article on a back page about a small epidemic in a central African country half a world away! A small outbreak caused by one of the most deadly viruses known— Ebola: no cure, killing up to 90% of those infected, unknown until 1976. Reports suggest that the epidemic is subsiding, leaving 160 or so victims in its wake, half the number of the 1976 outbreak. The epidemic appears to have been contained once again—more by the characteristics of the disease than by the intervention of modern epidemiologists—although they certainly helped. How fortunate that the disease did not spread to Kinshasa, the Zairian capital of five million inhabitants—that would have been a catastrophe. Such a possibility, and probable eventuality, is the subject of Laurie Garrett's timely book, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in