'Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs'

March 2017 – "There has never been a time in history when the challenges to controlling and preventing the global spread of infectious disease has ever been this daunting," says CIDRAP Director Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, an infectious disease expert, discussing his new book, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs.

For decades, Osterholm has been in the business of telling people what they don't necessarily want to hear: Pandemics are inevitable; outbreaks can be devastating; bioterrorism is a threat. Several real infectious disease threats exist that could stop the world in its tracks, and by and large government officials, industry professionals, and researchers are not acting together to stop them, he warns.

While the world becomes more interconnected, infectious diseases like Zika, Ebola, and MERS become real public health threats. In addition, influenza has the power to kill many millions of our population in a short period.

But his latest book hopes to help in our fight against these epidemics. In Deadliest Enemy, Osterholm lays out a "Battle Plan for Survival" with a nine-point strategy on how we can keep ourselves safer from emerging infectious disease threats. Preventing a global flu pandemic is the top priority of the plan.

Osterholm hopes the book—which is part detective story, part military strategy, and part public health primer—not only informs but also inspires people to commit to public health action and work.

"If we know how to greatly reduce the risk of these public health problems and we don't, then we become an accomplice to the morbidity and mortality they cause," he says. "We need a new generation of public health experts who can effectively address these issues in ways we're not addressing them now."

In the new book, which he coauthors with Mark Olshaker, Osterholm said he's trying to clearly sound the alarm on the real public health threats facing the world and explain the policy and research needed to tackle these threats head-on.

"I have the reputation as 'Bad News Mike,'" said Osterholm. "But it's not just bad news [in the book]. I'm also saying, 'Wake up, there's something you can do about it.' I guess I'm at the age where I'm looking at what kind of world I'm leaving for my kids and grandkids, and I want to make sure we do what we can to stop disease."

"One of the things about Mike is that he's always about doing something," said John Barry, who wrote the definitive book on the 1918-19 pandemic, The Great Influenza. "I think everything he's done has been geared towards results or trying to get them. Both in the book and professionally." 

Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer, writes of the book, "When Osterholm tells us that the potential for global pandemics is a life-or-death issue for every person on the planet, we need to listen. Deadliest Enemy is a powerful and necessary book that looks at the threat of emerging diseases with clarity and realism, and offers us not just fear but plans."

See also:

Book availability: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Google Play

Mar 14 CIDRAP News story "Osterholm plays detective, general in 'Deadliest Enemy' book"

Mar 13 University of Minnesota School Public Health Q&A with Osterholm

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