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Book and Media Reviews
January 30, 2008

Infectious Disease Epidemiology: Theory and Practice

JAMA. 2008;299(4):457-462. doi:10.1001/jama.299.4.459

Infectious diseases are directly responsible for approximately 1 in 4 deaths globally.1 Most of these deaths occur early in life and are preventable. Prevention requires appropriate technology—eg, vaccines, latrines, bed nets, the media—along with personal and political commitment. Infectious disease epidemiology supports prevention by providing a fundamental understanding of how infections spread, identifying effective control measures, and collecting and interpreting disease surveillance data. It is a multidisciplinary subject, bringing together medical doctors, statisticians, biologists, mathematicians, and economists. The challenge for these professionals is to assimilate the information from each discipline that is necessary for a full and productive understanding of this rapidly evolving field. The second edition of Infectious Disease Epidemiology: Theory and Practice, edited by Nelson, Williams, and Graham, is an attempt to provide such an understanding and is based on a course offered at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. This great paving-slab of a book, at 1207 pages, with the almost inevitable discontinuities and changes in style of an edited volume, is unlikely to be read from cover to cover by any but the most keen students of this field. Instead, it is likely to find itself on a (firmly affixed) shelf as a resource that can be frequently consulted on the “theory and practice” of infectious disease epidemiology.