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The Fatal Strain: On the Trail of Avian Flu and the Coming Pandemic
     

The Fatal Strain: On the Trail of Avian Flu and the Coming Pandemic

by Alan Sipress
 

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In 2009, Swine Flu reminded us that pandemics still happen, and award- winning journalist Alan Sipress reminds us that far worse could be brewing. When a highly lethal strain of avian flu broke out in Asia in 2003 and raced westward, Sipress, as a reporter for The Washington Post, tracked the virus across nine countries, watching its secrets elude the world's

Overview

In 2009, Swine Flu reminded us that pandemics still happen, and award- winning journalist Alan Sipress reminds us that far worse could be brewing. When a highly lethal strain of avian flu broke out in Asia in 2003 and raced westward, Sipress, as a reporter for The Washington Post, tracked the virus across nine countries, watching its secrets elude the world's brightest scientists and most intrepid disease hunters. A vivid portrayal of the struggle between man and microbe, The Fatal Strain is a fast-moving account that weaves cultural, political, and scientific strands into a tale of inevitable pandemic.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a book about much more than a lethal threat from the influenza virus. It's about the fog of war, about reality, about the gap between those who make plans and those who carry them out. And ultimately it's about heroism and determination. There are lessons here for everyone, and in compelling fashion this book drives those lessons home."——John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

“Alan Sipress has produced a vivid and enthralling story that could not be more timely. Ever evolving, ever elusive, influenza threatens us on a scale far worse than anything we've yet seen. Sipress pursues the deadly strain through Asia with tenacious energy, revealing the true scale of the danger, and the terrifying inadequacy of our readiness to face it.”——Pete Davies, Author of Devil’s Flu and Inside the Hurricane

The Fatal Strain reads like a gripping medical mystery novel-only it is not. It is the true story of the scary world of pandemic influenza expertly written by one of the leading ‘flu journalists’ of our time. Although the H1N1 (swine) influenza pandemic is unfolding before us, we must not take our eye off of avian influenza, as it very well may lead to a deadly “one-two pandemic punch.” Anyone who cares about what might happen to their loved ones, friends or colleagues should read this book.”——Michael T. Osterholm PhD, MPH., Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

“Masterfully paced, gripping work”——Seed

“Exemplary—and highly frightening—investigative reporting.”——Kirkus (starred review)

“Timely, given today’s headline-bursting thread of swine flu (H1N1). It is…a cautionary tale [as] influenza is about politics.”——Booklist

David Oshinsky
The bad news, says Alan Sipress in his superb and sobering book about the shadowy progression of a virulent avian flu now moving across Asia, is that the worst is yet to come. Sipress…is uniquely positioned to tell this story. He's intimately familiar with the region, having served as a correspondent in South Asia during the devastating recent tsunami. And his grasp of virology, as well as of the ins and outs of the world health bureaucracy, serves him well in explaining why medical practices that appear so obvious to Western experts in containing a deadly epidemic are largely irrelevant to "the backyard chicken farmers, cockfighters, witch doctors, political bosses, and poultry smugglers" who control the terrain where this battle must be fought.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
With the current focus on the H1N1, or swine flu, people may have forgotten about the avian flu scare of a few years ago. The deadly avian, or H5N1, flu centered in Asia and garnered similar headlines in 2004, announcing fears of a pandemic. In his first book, Sipress, a writer for the Washington Post, comes bearing the unhappy news that the avian flu threat grows more dire every day (outbreaks reported as recently as this year). Sipress rides shotgun with WHO researchers as they cross Southeast Asia tracking transmission of the disease and trying to persuade recalcitrant governments to report cases of avian flu and cull flocks of thousands of chickens. Yet possibly infected birds continue to be smuggled across borders, and experts say we are not appropriately prepared to combat a pandemic. Sipress writes at a breathless pace at times, and after a while his case histories blend. Remarkably, he makes no mention of the current H1N1 outbreak. But readers interested in public health or who like to stay abreast of all possible looming threats will want to read this. (Nov. 16)
Kirkus Reviews
A grim, harrowing account of what is happening-and not happening-in Southeast Asia as countries confront bird flu. Former Washington Post business editor and foreign correspondent Sipress spent years following human outbreaks of bird flu in mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia as the disease relentlessly moved west. The culprit was the virulent H5N1 influenza virus, which has ravaged geese, ducks, other wild fowl, the roosters groomed for cockfighting and, most importantly, domestic chickens, transmitting disease to human bird handlers or consumers. Like all flu viruses, H5N1 is quick to mutate or mix genes with other flu viruses, meaning that it can develop resistance to drugs or vaccines. In some places it may have already become asymptomatic in birds, which makes checking the source of a human outbreak, already problematic, even more formidable. The critical question is when a mutation will ease human-to-human transmission. That will be the takeoff point for a pandemic that will dwarf the mortality of the 1918 flu epidemic. The World Health Organization and other global health leaders, as well as the many epidemiologists and virologists tracking the virus, are convinced that it is not question of if but when. The reasons vary: the globalization of commerce and travel means that all parts of the world are connected within hours; a growing middle class in developing countries is eating more meat, and poultry conglomerates have risen to meet the need, in some cases conspiring with governments to suppress news of poultry disease and required bird cullings; developing countries are still too poor to cope with epidemic disease or vaccinations. Some have pledged notto cooperate in disease surveillance, blaming the West for taking their virus samples to make drugs or vaccines that are too expensive for them. There is still much to be learned about the virus, and Sipress's sketches of the heroic men and women at the frontlines enrich the narrative, even as he expertly details the obstacles posed when a disease becomes a matter of politics, commerce and culture clash. Exemplary-and highly frightening-investigative reporting. Author events around Washington, D.C. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn/The Sagalyn Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143118305
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/30/2010
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
1,374,294
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Michael T. Osterholm
"The Fatal Strain reads like a gripping medical mystery novel-only it is not. It is the true story of the scary world of pandemic influenza expertly written by one of the leading 'flu journalists' of our time. Although the H1N1 (swine) influenza pandemic is unfolding before us, we must not take our eye off of avian influenza, as it very well may lead to a deadly 'one-two pandemic punch.' Anyone who cares about what might happen to their loved ones, friends or colleagues should read this book."--(Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH. Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota)
Pete Davies
Alan Sipress has produced a vivid and enthralling story that could not be more timely. Ever evolving, ever elusive, influenza threatens us on a scale far worse than anything we've yet seen. Sipress pursues the deadly strain through Asia with tenacious energy, revealing the true scale of the danger, and the terrifying inadequacy of our readiness to face it. (Pete Davies, Author of Devil's Flu and Inside the Hurricane)
John M. Barry
This is a book about much more than a lethal threat from the influenza virus. It's about the fog of war, about reality, about the gap between those who make plans and those who carry them out. And ultimately it's about heroism and determination. There are lessons here for everyone, and in compelling fashion this book drives those lessons home. (John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.)
From the Publisher
"[A] superb and sobering book." —-Washington Post

Meet the Author

Alan Sipress is economics editor at The Washington Post and a longtime foreign correspondent, based most recently in Southeast Asia. In 2005, a Post team he anchored was awarded the Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline Writing for coverage of the South Asian tsunami. This is his first book. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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