The True Story of the 21st Century's First Great Epidemic
By Karl Taro Greenfeld
(HarperCollins, Hardcover, 9780060587222, 464pp.)
Publication Date: March 2006
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As the world braces for the next flu pandemic, the 2003 SARS outbreak now seems even more relevant as the harbinger of crises to come. The next great viral storm will likely emerge from Asia and could be more contagious than any respiratory disease since the catastrophic influenza of 1918. China Syndrome, an intensely compelling and unrivaled exploration of the first epidemic of the twenty-first century, explores how globalization, coupled with rampant development, is ushering in a terrifying new chapter in the history of human health.
When SARS broke out in January 2003, Karl Taro Greenfeld was the editor of Time Asia in Hong Kong, just a few miles from the epicenter of the outbreak. After vague, initial reports of terrified Chinese emptying pharmacy shelves and boiling vinegar to "purify" the air in nearby Guangdong province, Greenfeld and his staff soon found themselves immersed in the story of a lifetime. His taut, scientific thriller, in the tradition of The Hot Zone and The Great Influenza, takes readers on a gripping ride that blows through the Chinese government's effort to cover up the disease. Greenfeld deftly tracks this mysterious killer outbreak, from the bedside of one of the first Chinese victims to overwhelmed hospital wards crashing from the onslaught of cases, from cutting-edge labs where researchers struggle to identify the virus to the war rooms at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva.
Infectious diseases have reemerged as one of the globe's most pressing problems. In this thorough, revelatory account of SARS, Greenfeld gives us a crucial blueprint for how an epidemic evolves. China Syndrome will make you realize how lucky you are to be alive -- and wonder how long that good luck will hold.
A work of riveting, relevant journalism...a dexterous approach that recalls Randy Shilts's AIDS history And the Band Played On.
-The Village Voice
Greenfeld moves quickly, often conjuring a thriller, and his personal and professional involvement give his account...a unique perspective.
"This book is a parable for our times."
A taut scientific thriller, well told.
Greenfeld... ponders the nature and purpose of viruses as he paints a gloomy picture of what we...can expect next.
-Booklist (starred review)