Mr. Barry Zimmerman
Author of Killer Germs
Teacher, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, Plainsboro, New Jersey
On May 5, 2006, our team interviewed Mr. Barry Zimmerman, a respected science teacher at West-Windsor Plainsboro High School North and author of the book Killer Germs published in 2003.
Mr. Barry Zimmerman
Mr. Barry Zimmerman attended Brooklyn College for his undergraduate schooling. Long Island University masters in microbiology. He has been teaching for 36 years. He started teaching biology, then chemistry, then physics and astronomy--essentially all the disciplines of science to date. Currently, he teaches astronomy at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in Plainsboro, New Jersey, United States.
Along with his brother, he authored Killer Germs, a book documenting the history of disease as it affects human beings. In the book, he discusses the germ theory, bacterial diseases, recent concerns such as the flu and lime disease, antibiotics, and the threat of bioterrorism. It has received a 5/5 positive rating on Amazon.com and is a very captivating work on disease and pathogens even for the person who knows nothing about the subject.
Until recently, most of us went about our daily lives with a false sense of public health security. Epidemics were a thing of the past, the AIDS crisis had diminished, and an annual vaccination kept the flu at bay.
Then, in late 2001, all of those illusions of public health safety were suddenly shattered. A litany of terrifying images and events became all to familiar, from federal agents surreally swathed in biohazard suits to the daily evacuation of major government buildings for anthrax decontamination. The lethal power of microscopic organisms--no longer confined to the lab---permeated our collective psyches, forcing us to confront the serious threat posed by killer germs.
From the bygone bubonic plague to the modern nightmare of Ebola, Killer Germs offers a fascinating examination of the horrors humanity has faced and the actions required to provide hope for the future.
Back Cover, Killer Germs
"...I've taught for about 36 years. I started off teaching biology, and then later on I taught chemisty, and then physics and astornomy. So I've really pretty much taught most of the disciplines..." - listen
His Book, Killer Germs
"The book really goes through pretty much the history of disease as it affects human beings. It goes through the origin of the germ theory, and how we came to realize how infectious diseases occured... that there were germs that carried disease that infected people... We go through the bacterial diseases, the great plagues of the Middle Ages, and there's a chapter on the 'new kids on the block,' which is the more recent diseases: ebola, henta virus, flu, legionaire's disease, lime disease... There's a chapter on the whole history and discovery and history of antibiotics... And then there is a chapter on bioterrorism... " - listen
"It's scary. It's scary, you know. We talk about Iran, we talk about other countries getting nuclear weapons, which of course is a threat, and they're certainly weapons of mass destruction, no argument, but weapons that are equally, I feel, equally dangerous and can involve as many or more people is the threat of bioterrorism, where countries, you know, rogue nations can develop what we call weapons-grade germs and they can unleash it on populations. And you're talking about, really, tens or hundred of thousands, possibly millions of people involved." - listen
"Especially today, even more so than in World War I... In 1917-1918 you had the great flu epidemic... which spread worldwide and killed estimated anywhere between 15-20, the estimates even go up to 30 million people. Today its more dangerous because world travel today is faster..." - listen
"Even something like measles in a naive population, a population that has never been exposed to it, is a killer. When the Europeans first came to the New World, measles and small pox were two of the germs, two of the diseases, that wiped out the Native American Indians. Wiped them out. Measles--something that we take for granted as being a common childhood disease. So any infectious disease, especially... to unprotected populations, naive populations, could be very, very dangerous. Could be killers." - listen
"Smallpox today... is the only or one of the only dangerous plague diseases that have been eradicated. But there are... in Russia and in the United States CDC, there are copies of the germ that are stored... There is a fear that if these stored germs get into the wrong hands, it could be a problem." - listen
"A terrorist said at one time: You have to be vigilant, you have to be correct all of the time. We only have to be successful once. We only have to be successful one time and there is mass destruction. You have to be successful all of the time. The terrorists have the upper hand. We have to maintain a constant vigilance and its extremely difficult in a nation as large as the United States. We're about the largest of the free nations and its very difficult to protect ourselves." - listen
How ready is the US for a bioterrorist attack?
"We're trying, we're doing the best that we can, but we're not as prepared as we should be. We have our first responders and... we have a protocol in place... And large cities practice... where first responders come, the emergency workers come, and the police are inovlved. But if something were to happen, I would say that a lot of people would be in danger in the event that we really did have a bioterrorist attack... We don't have the antibiotics in sufficient quantities to be distributed or gas masks to be distributed in large cities for germs that would be spread by inhalation, what they call 'droplet infection.' So... I feel we have a ways to go before we would be protected, especially in our large cities." - listen
- Zimmerman, Barry E. Personal interview. 5 May 2006.
- Zimmerman, Barry, and David Zimmerman. Killer Germs. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.