Author (or Editor): Miller, Judith; Englelberg, Stephen; Broad, William
Title: Germs: Biological
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Physical description: hardbound, 382 pages, with index
Relevance to doaskdotell: terrorism
Review: As a sickly boy, I thought
of “germs” as a bad word. “Birds don’t get sick from germs,” my father said
once (though not true). In graduate school at
Judith Miller is the New York Times reporter who apparently received an anthrax-laced letter in October, 2001 during the anthrax attacks, still unsolved as of this writing (1/2001). I would assume that the authors will write an appendix and that the publisher will provide a reprint once there is sufficient information about the 2001 attacks, as this book appeared just before Sept. 11.
The amount of detail in this book is awesome. The authors start with the
one previous domestic biological attack of salad bar salmonella by the Rajneeshees cult in Oregon in 1984, which could have been
fatal for hundreds had a slightly varied bacterium been used. They then trace
the enormous concern our government has had over the possibility of
biological warfare ever since the 1950s.
The details of a number of major terrorist and military incidents over
the years are covered. For example, the concern over whether Saddam Hussein
would use biological weapons either against American troops in Desert Shield
and Desert Storm in 1990/1991 (by the way, we often forget that Iraq’s attack
on Kuwait had started when Kuwait called in debts) or in the scud attacks
against Israel and Saudi Arabia. The bluff from the Bush administration, that
Despite all of this, authorities had to learn a great deal about anthrax once an outbreak occurred in 2001. The behavior of the disease seems much more dependent on the immune system of the person infected, much more variable in incubation period, and probably dependent upon efficient dispersal.
The authors present some speculative scenarios, such as the use of genetic engineering to defeat vaccines or add autoimmune disease to a viral pathology.
They discuss the work of writer Richard Preston, famous for his 1994
non-fiction account of the Ebola and
Omitted is discussion of :Laurie Garrett’s
monumental treatment The Coming Plague:
Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance Penguin
source that I like from the AIDS epidemic is Robert Gallo’s Virus Hunting (1989) from
have a situation familiar to AIDS activists in the 1980s, something with
horrifying potential, but like the l’Hopital
indeterminate derivative ratio, ultimately unpredictable outcome. As Garrett
But biological warfare has been used before. Only a cocky attitude towards experiments with self-inoculation saved George Washington’s armies from the British, and the British had already used smallpox in the French and Indian Wars (something overlooked in those movies with Daniel Day Lewis). And so with natural epidemics. The legend of the Passover might be related to infectious disease. The Spanish flu might have become important in World War I.
Richard Preston, The Hot Zone (1994, Knopf,
ISBN 0385479565) was a notorious non-fiction account of the outbreaks of
Marburg Virus and then Ebola, as well as a chilling account of Ebola Reston
in Virginia in 1989 among primates, where it is rumored that it may have been
Laurie Garrett, Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (1994, Penguin, ISBN 0140250913) gives graphic accounts of Lassa fever, Marburg, Ebola (with a particularly detailed account of a man who recovered, but lost all of his body hair permanently in the process), and Hanna virus in the southwest—and, of course, HIV. Her thesis is that man’s encroachment onto nature brings deadly epidemics out of the woodwork. Garrett has been a vocal proponent of alarm over H5N1, avian influenza.
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