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04/04/2003 Archived Entry: "SARS and Ebola: Detective work Hollywood couldn't match"
SARS IS SCARY. BUT THE FIGHT TO CONTAIN IT IS AS EXCITING AS A SUSPENSE FILM. The detective work ... the light-speed worldwide communications ... the life-or-death choices ... the razor balance that epidemiologists must strike between being too alarmist and too lax.
If you're in awe watching this, you might stay awake all night reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. This tautly written 1999 bestseller details the race to hunt down and contain Ebola (a disease that makes SARS look like a touch of hay fever). One of the book's revelations: Ebola nearly broke out of a lab near Washington, D.C. Only a fluke, a merciful turn of fate, prevented it. One reviewer said the book was "more hair-raising than anything Hollywood could think of, because it's all true," and one doctor called it "the best disease book ever written."
The Hot Zone is a good reality check on what scientists and government officials can do right -- and wrong -- to prevent a pandemic.
They've learned a lot since then. Let's hope they've learned enough. Otherwise, one of these days the more applicable book will be Stephen King's The Stand.
Posted by Claire @ 10:28 AM CST