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'Virus Ground Zero' by Ed Regis, first published 1996, is a non-fiction book about the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta's (CDC) ongoing fight against outbreaks of (new) viral diseases. The book gives an historical account of individuals from the CDC's encounters with various deadly diseases including Ebola, smallpox, hantavirus, Legionnaires' disease, swine flu, Lassa fever and other pathogens.
Topics to discuss:
1) The history of pathology, with particular reference to the CDC and how they have detected and dealt with outbreaks of 'killer' viruses.
2) The science behind viruses - what they are biologically, why they are deadly, how they spread and medical approaches to treatment.
3) How the book compares to others in the field, paricularly 'The Hot Zone' by Richard Preston and 'The Coming Plague' by Laurie Garrett. According to Publishers Weekly:
"Despite outbreaks of headline-grabbing viral diseases ... Regis believes that the public's perception of an apocalyptic threat posed by emerging killer viruses is largely an illusion fostered by the Centers for Disease Control's global success in discovering undetected pathogens" and further that
"This balanced report makes an impressive counterweight to more cautionary books such as Richard Preston's The Hot Zone and Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague".
4) A more detailed look at the phrase 'the public's perception of an apocalyptic threat posed by emerging killer viruses':
- new viruses emerge all the time, some more deadly than others. The best approach to stemming the spread is developing vaccines. This needs to be timely before a pandemic spreads and can be very costly. What are the developments in production of vaccines? The new science of synthetic vaccines for example (Rational Engineering of Recombinant Picornavrius Capsids to Produce Safe, Protective Vaccine Antigen Porta C. et al March 2013)
- viruses amongst intensively farmed animals can cross the species barrier to humans, eg swine flu and avian flu. This presents another route for deadly viruses to threaten humans.
- as global warming takes hold, a warmer climate in areas further from the equator, which has a climate that is literally a hotbed for diseases of all kinds, will draw diseases rife in equatorial regions further north (and south) to Europe and America.
5) General interest from the media and the public in global disasters which could be called 'histeria' fired by the internet and social media or could indicate a wider understanding amongst the world population (in the 'first world'/West at least) about the frailty of the human race and society in comparison to the unrelenting forces of nature.
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