Adventures of two gutsy physicians fighting deadly viruses amidst political chicanery and under incredibly harsh and primitive conditions. ""Level 4"" refers to the biosafety standards required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for working with lethal agents. Among these are the viruses that cause Ebola and Lassa fevers. McCormick, the initial narrator, gives a vivid picture of trying to control outbreaks of these in Sierra Leone and Zaire early in his career as an epidemiologist for the CDC. In 1986, he asked Fisher-Hoch, a British researcher into the pathophysiology of viral hemorrhagic fevers, to join the CDC, and soon afterward she too was doing fieldwork in Africa. Although both doctors are masters of the quiet understatement (they take turns narrating and have nearly identical styles), their tales of plague fighting in isolated African villages often boggle the imagination. Their dispassionate description of the outbreak of Ebola among monkeys in a laboratory in Reston, Va., differs markedly from the high drama of the event as described in Richard Preston's bestselling The Hot Zone (1994). McCormick's account of tracing the spread of AID in Zaire, where the primary mode of transmission turned out to be heterosexual contact, is especially noteworthy, as is his criticism of the Reagan administration for denying this finding, preferring to see AIDS as simply a ""gay plague."" Fisher-Hoch's experiences in Saudi Arabia during an outbreak of Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever reveal as much about the subjugation of women as about disease. The doctors wed in 1992 and since 1993 have been working in Karachi, Pakistan, where cholera, typhus, and hepatitis are rampant and overpopulation, violence, and extreme poverty are facts of life. Demonstrates clearly that while viruses can be deadly, humans may have more to fear from humanity itself.
Pub Date: July 1, 1996
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996
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