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Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World

by C.J. Peters & Mark Olshaker

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48557-3
Publisher: Anchor

 A virologist's breezy account of a career spent battling deadly diseases in the lab and in the field. Peters, now the chief of special pathogens at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and novelist Olshaker (Blood Race, 1989, etc.) have the knack of writing about T-cells and antibodies with clarity and vigor. Peters's colorful account of his field work in Central America, where as a brand-new doctor he studied tropical viruses with the US Public Health Service, evokes images of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Later he joined the US Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease, and it was as chief of its infectious diseases division that he played a major role in containing the 1989 Reston (Va.) Ebola outbreak that was the subject of Richard Preston's bestseller The Hot Zone. Peters, no shrinking violet, offers a different perspective on that terrifying episode--one more sympathetic to the army--than the one presented by Preston. And in the immediacy of his narrative, lab work takes on a high level of excitement. In his present position with the CDC, he has major concerns about the threat of lethal new viruses. He warns that if another incident like the outbreak at Reston were to occur today we would not be much better prepared. He worries, too, about biological terrorism, for his years with the army have made him aware of its potential horrors. Peters offers some concrete suggestions for how to prepare for these eventualities, such as global surveillance and the establishment of hospital procedures for large-scale emergencies. He also urges that scientists get a better handle on viruses and work out the basics of a vaccine or drug therapy for each viral family. As entertaining as an adventure novel, but with a deadly serious message, this is a valuable addition to the growing body of literature on emerging viruses. (Author tour)