By DemFromCT, cross-posted from Daily Kos
The Fatal Strain: On the Trail of Avian Flu and the Coming Pandemic
Hardcover, 400 pages, $27.95 list
Kindle Edition $13.49
Money quote: CDC and WHO epidemiologist Tim Uyeki is in Indonesia, collecting flu specimens from a very sick bird flu patient who is deeply suspicious of westerners and his own country’s doctors (he’s already fled from a local hospital because family members died there.) So suspicious, in fact, the family will not permit blood samples or protective gear other than a respirator and gloves.
Uyeki squatted beside him and leaned right in. The doctor’s eyes were just inches from those of his patient. Uyeki lifted the swab. Then, he carefully inserted it through the open mouth and down Dowes [Ginting]‘s throat.
The sensation must have tickled. For at that very moment, Dowes coughed. And when he did, it was right in Uyeki’s face.
Uyeki didn’t blanch. But inside, his stomach dropped. “Oh, this is not good,” Uyeki fretted to himself. Despite the mask, most of his face was exposed. His mind raced. He instantly thought about his unprotected eyes.
Basic Premise: The author follows the emergence of bird flu in Southeast Asia, including near miss outbreaks, the response of the local population and national governments, and WHO’s struggle to conduct surveillance against a backdrop of mistrust and lack of cooperation. All of those problems continue to exist, and the next pandemic may well be more severe than this one.
Author: Alan Sipress is a deputy business editor and former foreign correspondent at The Washington Post. In the past, he’s primarily written about national security and foreign affairs. In 2005, the Post team that he anchored was awarded the Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline Writing for coverage of the South Asian tsunami. This is his first book.
Readability/quality: Compelling and unnerving medical detective story. See the money quote about the epidemiologist who gets a cough in the face while sampling a bird flu victim. Full disclosure: I know Tim Uyeki, and that excerpt unnerved me.
The author brings depth to the topic (see interview) beyond just the science aspects (one example is witch doctors, live bird markets and cock fighting and their relationship to disease prevention and treatment.)
Who should read it: Anyone who wants to know what it’s like to to be a medical detective in developing countries (and learn more about how the medical system works there); anyone who wants to know why there’s an emphasis on vaccine production for pandemic planning; anyone interested in the food chain origin of human disease; anyone interested in the politics and culture of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia.
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