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By Roy Jennings and Robert C Read. (Pp 56; : £14.95.) Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd, 2002. ISBN 1-85315-514-4.****
If you think that the flu is nothing more than a heavy cold then I thoroughly recommend this compact and accessible book. The authors, a senior virologist and infectious diseases specialist from Sheffield, present the key issues clearly and succinctly.
As a GP I found it accessible and relevant. The layout is easy on the eye. I read it in an afternoon. The sections on diagnosis and management were particularly helpful. The mechanics of antigenic drift and its relevance to vaccination is especially well explained. There is a very helpful list of relevant web sites. I was startled to discover that the pig isa genetic cocktail shaker capable of blending two simultaneous influenza virus infections into a new strain and passing it on to humans.
The cost effectiveness of antiviral therapy is a major issue. I suspect that many GPs will hesitate about prescribing zanamivir at £24 for one day’s reduction in symptom duration. Although subsequent antibiotic prescribing may be reduced by 40%, does prescribing zanamivir reduce hospital admissions and mortality?
I have only one quibble. At £14.95 for just over 50 pages this book is pricey.
In 1918 more people died from the Spanish Flu than died in the Great War. The next spin of the influenza virus genetic roulette wheel could create an infectious agent that would make today’s superbugs look positively effete. As the authors point out, influenza may be considered to be one of the last great uncontrolled plagues of humankind.
The reviewers have been asked to rate these books in terms of four items: readability, how up to date they are, accuracy and reliability, and value for money, using simple four point scales. From their opinions we have derived an overall “star” rating: * = poor, ** = reasonable, *** = good, **** = excellent.