The emergence and spread in recent years of Ebola, West Nile encephalitis, SARS, and avian flu have raised questions about how well prepared the world is to deal with new or newly virulent infectious diseases in an era of extensive travel. Two Canadian scholars here usefully review the history of international cooperation with respect to contagious diseases (cholera, the plague, and yellow fever were the chief concerns in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) and the increased activities and rapid enlargement of the World Health Organization and its various associated bodies. The arrival of the Internet and the growing importance of nongovernmental organizations have greatly improved the speed and accuracy of reports of new outbreaks. Previously, reporting relied on governments, which sometimes were not promptly aware of such outbreaks and on other occasions suppressed vital information. The who has come to play an active coordinating role in identifying and containing local epidemics. The book includes a fine chapter on the contentious issue of the production and use of life-saving proprietary drugs in poor countries.
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