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Flu Hunter by Robert G. Webster

Written by a New Zealander whose passion is finding out the secrets of viruses, this Balclutha-born, Otago University educated professor has been involved with researching viruses for many years. He is now in his 80s but he still travels the worlds and addresses science conferences.

One of the most important goals for his team was to find the source of the 1918 Spanish Flu, the most devastating influenza pandemic to date. They discovered some tissue from preserved bodies who had died, and they were able to determine the gene sequence from this. The author and his team also isolated and identified the avian-adapted strain of H5N1, more commonly known as ‘bird flu’.

Flu Hunter is a helpful and fascinating account of the way that viruses originate, spread and mutate. I found it interesting that the scientific community of Australia, NZ, UK, USA, Russia and many other countries share knowledge, so we have a world-wide understanding of what is happening with viruses.

I am not a medical person, but I have previously worked for a pharmaceutical company and I found this book immensely interesting. Thankfully the style of the author’s writing is not boringly academic, but instead it is readable and engaging.

I agree with the quote form Lance C. Jennings about this book, when he says ‘Flu Hunter chronicles the career of an outstanding global scientific leader. It is a book that will appeal equally to students and scientists familiar with the field, and lay readers. I heartily commend it to all.’

Reviewer: Iain McKenzie

Otago University Press, RRP $35.00