New York Times Deadly Invaders: Virus Outbreaks Around the World, from Marburn Fever to Avian Flu
  • New York Times Deadly Invaders: Virus Outbreaks Around the World, from Marburn Fever to Avian Flu
  • New York Times Deadly Invaders: Virus Outbreaks Around the World, from Marburn Fever to Avian Flu

New York Times Deadly Invaders: Virus Outbreaks Around the World, from Marburn Fever to Avian Flu

by Denise Grady

An epidemic strikes the United States, plunging the country into chaos. New York Times medical reporter Denise Grady uses this terrifying scenario, taken from the pages of a U.S. government report on the potential outcome of a pandemic, as the starting point for a journey into the gripping world of emerging diseases.

In search of a better understanding of these

…  See more details below


An epidemic strikes the United States, plunging the country into chaos. New York Times medical reporter Denise Grady uses this terrifying scenario, taken from the pages of a U.S. government report on the potential outcome of a pandemic, as the starting point for a journey into the gripping world of emerging diseases.

In search of a better understanding of these often deadly diseases, Grady heads to Angola, the site of the 2005 Marburg virus epidemic, a disease closely related to Ebola. On the ground, and sometimes frighteningly close to victims of the disease, Denise explores the realities of health care in the developing world, and its potential effects on our own welfare.

With supplemental sidebars that explain key scientific and social issues and in-depth chapters on the origins and spread of Marburg, avian flu, HIV, SARS, West Nile virus, hantavirus, and monkeypox, this is a fascinating look at the health dangers we face in a global society.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Overall, the subject is presented in a style that is both fascinating and easy to understand.” —Children's Literature

“A fast-paced, timely, and important book” —School Library Journal

“Enhanced by news photos, side notes and a large list of citations to relevant Times articles, her accounts will be useful for assignments.” —Kirkus Reviews

VOYA - Jane G. Van Wiemokly
In 2005, New York Times reporter Grady visited Uige, Angola, the site of a deadly outbreak of Marburg Fever, a highly contagious virus first discovered in 1967. Her account of the conditions in the hospital and country, the cautionary preparations necessary before even going near an infected person, the removal of contaminated clothing and equipment, and the Angolan customs that interfere with the isolation and anti-contamination procedures can be shocking. Considering that the Marburg death rate in Angola in 2005 was about 88 percent and that more and more deadly viruses are coming to light, this information should be a wake-up call to the world that viral epidemics can occur anywhere. Modern travel, lack of adequate health care and vaccines, tropical forest incursions, and new markets for exotic and imported foods and animals contribute to possible epidemics and pandemics. After a general discussion of emerging infectious threats, six other viruses besides Marburg are featured: Avian Flu, HIV and AIDS, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, West Nile, SARS, and Monkeypox. There are no footnotes, but a list of Internet resources to valid sites includes the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Grady's further reading consists of two book titles and slightly more than one hundred articles from the New York Times. More documentation and other sources would have benefited any student using this work as a first step for papers. Although the New York Times is a reliable newspaper, additional sources would have provided more encompassing and comprehensive research for students.
Children's Literature - Leslie Wolfson
Prepare to be both repelled and fascinated by this nonfiction book on some of the world's most deadly diseases. Viruses like Marburg, West Nile, SARS, and HIV/AIDS are covered in an engaging and informative manner. In the first and largest portion of the book, the author, a New York Times science reporter, details the Marburg virus after traveling to Angola during an outbreak in 2005. Because the author was actually there and experienced the devastation of the virus on the people of Uige, the text sounds authentic rather than secondhand research. Known as the "hot zone," hundreds of people died in Africa after suffering horrific symptoms. The extreme poverty, the afflicted residents, and the less-than-sanitary hospital conditions are all described in detail. The locals, being very superstitious, were afraid of the health workers dressed in their white protective gear, because the color white is associated with witches. Each section has glossy color photographs and accompanying sidebars. Readers will learn that all of these viruses originated and/or are spread through animals (monkeys, mosquitoes, and prairie dogs to name a few.) Overall, the subject is presented in a style that is both fascinating and easy to understand.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-This readable and riveting text introduces students to the new age of viral epidemics. Grady begins with an account of her trip to Angola in 2005 to cover an outbreak of Marburg fever as a reporter for the New York Times. Her writing is informative and compelling. She persuasively relays the challenges of fighting a viral epidemic in a city that lacks such basic services as running water. The medical professionals also had to cope with language barriers and cultural differences. Grady clearly conveys the difficulties of confining and halting the spread of diseases in an age in which air travel makes it possible for an infected individual to spread a disease worldwide in a matter of hours. A map shows how one person infected with the SARS virus infected 400 individuals from around the globe while staying at a hotel in China. Boxed areas highlight information and individuals. For instance, one profiles Maria Bonino, an Italian pediatrician who died of Marburg during the outbreak. The layout is appealing and includes good-quality, full-color, relevant photographs on almost every spread. After relaying her experiences reporting on the Marburg outbreak, Grady profiles other deadly diseases, including Avian Flu, HIV and AIDS, SARS, and West Nile. A fast-paced, timely, and important book.-Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Grady, author of a number of New York Times articles on the topic, describes in personal, sometimes-heartrending detail her 2005 visit to Angola to cover the outbreak of Marburg fever there. Then she goes on to profile six more viral diseases that have jumped from animal to human victims: HIV and SARS, Avian Flu, Hantavirus, West Nile and Monkeypox. Rather than getting involved in technicalities, she goes for the human angle, recalling her own anxieties over visiting a country with 10 million land mines and cockroaches the size of hockey pucks. Moreover, she describes the makeshift conditions in a hospital isolation ward with one dying occupant, and admits her mixed feelings about attending a family's funeral for a possibly infected child. Enhanced by news photos, side notes and a large list of citations to relevant Times articles, her accounts will be useful for assignments. They will also leave readers profoundly affected by not only the dangers of these often-unpredictable potential pandemics, but by the complex challenges facing medical professionals who fight to understand and contain them. (source notes, Internet resources, further reading) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

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Product Details

Publication date:
New York Times Series
Product dimensions:
7.77(w) x 9.68(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Luanda, Angola

Monday, April 11, 2005

Standing in a tent outside the Américo Boavida Hospital in Luanda, Angola, I

peeled off my sweaty blouse and jeans and pulled on a green hospital scrub shirt and pants. It was noon, hot and humid—a typical day in southwestern

Africa—and it felt as if there were no air in the tent. A rooster crowed from a field of weeds just outside, and as I tied the drawstring on my pants I

thought, I've been writing about medicine for twenty-five years, and I've never been to a hospital with roosters before. The scrubs, not long off the clothesline, felt damp, and they reeked of bleach. But it was a reassuring smell. The tent had been pitched as a changing room for doctors and nurses just outside a building that housed the "hot zone," a special ward created for patients infected with the deadly, contagious Marburg virus. Bleach was the best way to kill the virus on clothing, equipment, and even people's hands.

It was my third day in Luanda, Angola's capital, a teeming city of four million where SUVs zigzagged around gaping potholes and women strode gracefully by with enormous baskets of bread or fruit balanced on their heads. About

180 miles (290 kilometers) north of us, the province of Uige (pronounced

Weej) was in the grip of the world's largest epidemic ever of Marburg fever.

There is no cure for Marburg. By the time I arrived in Angola, of 214 people who had caught it, 194 had died, usually after being sick for only a week. It was a shockingly high death rate, among the worst for any infectious disease. Of the first 100 or so victims, many were babies and small children.

The outbreak had taken Angola by surprise, and no one knew exactly how,

where, or when it had started.

Although Marburg had first been identified in blood samples from patients in

Uige in March of 2005, it had probably been killing people for months before that, maybe since October of 2004. Much of that time, doctors had probably been mistaking it for something else. There is so much disease in Africa—

malaria, diarrheal infections, and yellow fever are just a few examples—that it is easy for a new illness to sneak in and gain a foothold. That is precisely what Marburg did: it blended in and got such a head start on doctors and health officials that suddenly, before they even knew what was happening,

they had an epidemic on their hands. The disease was still spreading. Virus experts had flown in from all over the world to try to stop it. Tomorrow, I would fly to the center of the outbreak, Uige.

From New York, where I work at The New York Times, I had been following reports from the World Health Organization about the epidemic in Angola,

and urging (some might call it pestering) the paper to cover it. American newspapers were not writing much about the disease. Finally, when I sent around an e-mail noting that the outbreak had officially become the largest known Marburg epidemic ever, one of my editors said, "Do you want to go?"

"Sure," I said—and wondered immediately what I had volunteered for. But, I

must admit, the disease fascinated me. I was a biology major in college, and the student in me wanted to know more. The reporter in me wanted to tell the story of the crisis in Angola.

Some people thought going there was a crazy idea. Colleagues, relatives,

and friends asked if I wasn't afraid I would catch the disease myself.

Of course I was afraid. I would be walking into an epidemic of a contagious,

incurable, and usually fatal disease, in an isolated part of a poor, crumbling nation with a shaky health-care system. At least one doctor and several nurses in Uige had caught the disease from their patients and died. The incubation period—the time between when a person is infected and when he or she becomes sick—is short, between three and ten days. I knew that if I

became infected in Angola, I would probably die there, too.

But at the same time, I thought it should be possible to report on Marburg without catching it. Infected people aren't contagious until they start having symptoms, so I wouldn't have to worry around people who weren't sick. Even then, the virus does not spread through the air. To catch it, you have to touch body fluids like blood, vomit, and urine from sick patients. Many people in Angola became infected from taking care of others with the disease.

Corpses, teeming with the virus, are especially dangerous, and some

Angolans got sick and died from washing the body of a dead relative to prepare it for burial.

It seemed to me that if I didn't get close to sick people or dead bodies, and took care about where I went and what I touched, I should be able to avoid the virus. I would be interviewing experts in infectious disease, and I decided that I would follow their advice and do whatever they did to keep from being infected.

Still, there was a risk. The odds of not coming home were small, but real.

Even without Marburg, Angola wasn't the safest place. It had been torn apart by civil war from 1975 to 2002, and the countryside was still littered with land mines, so there were many areas where you simply couldn't walk or ride.

Outside Luanda, you weren't even supposed to drive up on the shoulder of the road to pass another car, because the shoulders had been planted with land mines. Medical care was poor, except in Luanda. Law and order were sketchy. The U.S. State Department Web site warned that bandits might stop cars along roads outside Luanda, especially at night, and that the police had been known to rob people. The State Department also said, "Police and military officials are sometimes undisciplined, and their authority should not be challenged." Even getting in and out of Angola could be tough, because there had been incidents in which officials at the airport pulled scams,

detaining travelers or threatening to vaccinate them with unsterilized needles unless bribes were paid.

I booked flights and a hotel in Luanda, applied for a visa, and saw a doctor who specialized in travel medicine. He prescribed pills to prevent malaria and antibiotics to carry in case I got sick from tainted food. He also gave me five shots: vaccinations against polio, meningitis, hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever. But there was nothing that could protect me from Marburg fever—

except, perhaps, my own common sense.

I left New York on Thursday night, April 7. My arm was still sore from the shots. My suitcase was stuffed full of mosquito repellent, germ-killing hand cleaner, PowerBars, and packages of nuts in case I found myself in places with no food, or food I was afraid to eat. I was wearing a money belt hidden under my clothes, with about $4,000 in it. It made me nervous to carry so much money, but drivers and translators—the official language in Angola is

Portuguese—would be expensive and would have to be paid in cash.

On the first leg of the trip, a flight to London, I sat next to a man who had traveled quite a bit in Africa.

"Fortunately," he said, "I've always been able to avoid Angola."

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Meet the Author

Denise Grady has been a science reporter for The New York Times since 1998 and has written more than five hundred articles about medicine and biology. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a commendation from the Newspaper Guild for Choice and Excellence of Crusading Journalistic Contributions in the Areas of Science and Medicine. She lives in Westchester, New York.

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