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Soap and Water & Common Sense: The Definitive Guide to Viruses, Bacteria, Parasites and Disease by Dr. Bonnie Henry

Soap and Water & Common Sense

Dr. Bonnie Henry has become a household name in British Columbia and across much of Canada. As the province’s chief medical officer, she, along with her provincial counterparts, has been informing and encouraging the population in all things to do with COVID-19. In her over-100 public briefings, her message is the same: “The best prevention for the spread of COVID-19 is to wash your hands with soap and water and stay home if you are feeling ill.”

For Henry, this is not a new message. In 2009, her book, Soap and Water & Common Sense was first published. By that time in her career, Henry had served on teams working to address outbreaks within her own country and around the world. She is an advocate for health, safety, and prevention in her calling as a medical doctor and specifically as an epidemiologist.

In this updated edition with a new introduction, Henry invites her readers on a tour of what she calls “microbes incorporated.” She covers information, historical and current, about a variety of viruses, bacteria, and fungi, crossing the globe with examples of outbreaks, the consequences and subsequent discoveries of vaccines and cures. Henry herself was called to the front lines for outbreaks like the Avian influenza, Ebola, and SARS. As much as the text provides accurate scientific information, the stories of context and place make this a very accessible and familiar read.

The book provides insight into how the World Health Organization provides the  interconnectedness needed within a global reality of poverty and humans, animals and food movement. Her common-sense advice includes cautionary notes about the challenges within hospitals, indoor spaces like grocery stores and restaurants, and outdoor spaces like pools and salons. According to Henry, traveling risks can be mitigated with a diligent approach toward water intake and handwashing, the mitigation equal on cruises and five-star hotels as on trips with few amenities.

Apart from the introduction, the re-release is not updated to include the current crisis. To say it was globally prophetic at its first publishing is an understatement. “The clock is ticking. We just don’t know what time it is,” she wrote then. As much as Henry is recognized in Canada, the world has also taken note. The New York Times recognized her effective approach just months into the pandemic. Although cleanliness is certainly her message, Henry is most quoted for how she ends each public briefing: “Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.” An enduring message of wellness. (Penguin Random House Canada)

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