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Book and Media Reviews
May 7, 2008

The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink

JAMA. 2008;299(17):2093. doi:10.1001/jama.299.17.2093-a

Epidemiologists experience a joy and excitement when participating in medical research. This is difficult to communicate even to their closest allies, the clinicians, much less the general public. The intensity only increases when a disease outbreak is occurring, fatal illnesses are striking down those in their prime or the most frail, and only cool methodical science can provide answers. Waterborne diseases are particularly malevolent, killing through extreme processes such as kidney failure and dehydration. Waterborne epidemics come on rapidly and strike suddenly, which provides a particularly pressure-packed context for a set of short- to medium-length vignettes about how pathogens spread through water to kill. What could be more dramatic than a cholera epidemic?