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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574

SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.100 n.9 Pretoria Sep. 2010




Communicable disease epidemiology and control: a global perspective. 3rd ed



By Roger Webber. Pp. 291. Illustrated. PB: US$75, HB: US$130. CAB International. 2009. PB ISBN 978-1-84593-504-7, HB ISBN 978-1-84593-505-4.

Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Control: a Global Perspective is designed as a compact reference guide and framework to assist in understanding the plethora of communicable diseases by grouping these according to common modes of transmission, which in turn often defines interventions for control.

The first five chapters focus on theory that is core to the study of communicable diseases. The content is neither highly detailed nor complex, but rather aims to give the newcomer some insight into the world of epidemiology and the expert a quick refresher. Each chapter from 6 through 18 is devoted to a different method of transmission to assemble a select, although fairly comprehensive, reference guide to communicable diseases. Each disease is summarised to include aspects of the causative organism, clinical features, diagnosis, transmission, occurrence, distribution, incubation period, period of communicability, control, prevention, treatment, and surveillance. Easily understood tables, line-diagrams, maps and graphs are presented to cover additional aspects ranging from life-cycles to temporal variations in disease incidence. Throughout the book emphasis is placed on practical approaches with regard to control, rather than the details of each disease.

One should approach Webber's classification with the foreknowledge that, while transmission is among the most important determinants of control, the dynamics of the host, agent and environment are complex and must also be considered in the development of comprehensive control interventions.

Epidemiologists are spoilt for choice with regard to reference manuals on communicable diseases and the competing wealth of information available on the internet via disease control agencies. Webber's experience as a public health practitioner in developing countries is what sets this book apart. He understands the burden faced in these regions, and the limited time, knowledge and resources available for intervention. Therefore, in my opinion, it deserves a place on the desk and in the field kits of practitioners and students of public health, epidemiology and others at the frontline of disease control.


Brett N Archer
Outbreak Response Unit
National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) (a division of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS))

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