WORLD WAR C

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Late in 2018, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Gupta wrote an op-ed piece warning that a major pandemic was inevitable and calling for the development of new vaccines. While describing himself as “an eternal optimist,” the author reprises that warning along with advice about how to “better predict, prepare, and respond.” Gupta’s overview of the U.S. response to the virus will be familiar to readers of mainstream media. With denial among many in Trump’s circle and responsibility for public health spread over myriad departments, there was “division, dysfunction, and lack of truth telling among our leaders.” In addition, “the general unhealthiness of Americans played a role,” with chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease making people more vulnerable to Covid-19. Because the virus can be transmitted asymptomatically, testing of people who showed symptoms proved to be “too little, too late” in halting the spread. Gupta gives cogent, accessible explanations about the biology of viruses, how vaccines work, and how the immune system fights off pathogens. Yet he admits that much about coronaviruses is still unknown: about transmission, about why some people fall desperately ill while others are asymptomatic, about mutations, and about the persistence of long-term symptoms. “Can COVID hide out in the body and continue to inflict damage?” Gupta asks. “Can it persist long after the acute phase of illness has resolved?” Much of his book focuses on preparedness, including promoting digital literacy, making healthy life choices, assessing risk factors intelligently, and assembling a pandemic prep kit. He debunks anti-vaccination myths, such as that the mRNA vaccine was rushed or changes one’s DNA or causes infertility. Our response to Covid-19, Gupta asserts convincingly, was a “multisystem organ failure, ranging from our poor health to our inflated sense of readiness.”

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