Who would ever have predicted that this winter's grim medical headlines would address not the usual cold-weather pestilence — influenza — but pedestrian, forgettable old measles?
Just about everybody, that's who. Experts have been tracking the worldwide resurgence of measles for decades now, and it was only a matter of time before the scattershot outbreaks of years past turned into this year's newsworthy explosions.
Readers curious about this infection rising phoenixlike from its own ashes will find both less and more in the library than they may want. Aside from a few textbooks and pamphlets, I couldn't find a whole book devoted to measles — not since the 10th century A.D., that is, when the Persian physician Al-Razi wrote “The Smallpox and Measles” to differentiate the two.
Still, quite a few recent books deliver the basics, including information on childhood infections and their medical dangers, the various ways we have learned to thwart those dangers and the ways in which those efforts have in turn been thwarted. Readers intrigued enough by vaccination to want more details on the workings of the human immune system and its potential for both harm and good will find new books discussing just that topic.