Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Current Event! Examining Pandemics (Examining Disasters) by Nina Rolfes

Shelter-in-place orders, On-line School, Social Distancing--terms that are new to student these days--are the order of the day in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, but pandemics are not unfamiliar to adults and certainly not new to the the human race, as young middle readers learn in Nina Rolfes' Examining Pandemics (Examining Disasters) (Clara House).

Rolfes begins by defining the term, explaining that an epidemic is a disease which spreads over a distinct area within a country and that a pandemic is a disease which is widespread over two countries or more.

She describes how a pandemic is spread from close contact with an animal or from a person who has the bacteria or virus causing the disease, or from contact with a surface touched by an infected animal or person, usually within 48 hours. Terms such as vectors, zoonotic diseases and transmission, hosts, and contagion are defined and described. Rolfes points out that humans are often a disease's best vectors because they are numerous, live in close social groups from a single family to a mega-city, and travel freely and often between widely different habitats, making spread by humans hard to control and requiring quarantines with strict rules, protective face masks and clothing, and rules for distancing from others.

Author Rolfes brings young readers up to speed on pandemics in human history, from the Black, or Bubonic, Plague, the "Black Death" which raged through Eurasia from 1330 on, killing up to half the population in a given area. She also recounts pandemics of smallpox that spread rapidly through Europe and then the Americas until an Englishman, Edward Jenner, discovered that he could prevent smallpox by "vaccinating" people with material from the lesions caused by cowpox, a harmless but common disease, and smallpox was at last declared officially worldwide extinct in the last century.

Rolfes also describes more recent pandemics from the 1918 influenza which killed 50 million people worldwide to measles and other widespread twentieth century diseases such as polio and AIDS, all of which sickened and killed millions, and those of the twenty-first century--SARS, H1N1 influenza, and Ebola, and how they were controlled.

With striking graphics, black-and-white photos of the 1918 flu scenes and polio wards and color photos of more recent events provide a backward look into past pandemics, Examining Pandemics (Examining Disasters) gives middle graders a wider understanding of pandemics and of the current COVID-19 now being experienced through almost the entire world. A pandemic on this global scale is an epic event, one perhaps familiar to those who know history but unfamiliar to children who are living through such a disaster in their own time, and in her straightforward, just-the-facts text, she describes methods to constrain disease while helping to put this current pandemic in its place in history. Rolfes also appends a glossary, a bibliograpy of books and web sites, and a useful index to help with science reports and projects.

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