Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Level 4 Virus Hunters of the CDC

Level 4 Virus Hunters of the CDC by Drs. Joseph McCormick and Susan Fisher-Hoch is a personal account of doctors and their work in the CDC. The book was originally published in 1996, but I was reading an updated 1999 version that was 397 pages long with an index.

The preface explains neatly what the goal of the book is:
"Our intent is therefore to give the reader a personal encounter with Level-4 organisms in various situations: in patients, in nature, in the laboratory. We hope that through our stories the reader in the safety of his or her home may vicariously face and care for a seriously ill patient with viral hemorrhagic fever; experience the search for virus reservoirs in remote places; sweat over the search for a new virus in the laboratory; work in a space suit; or look down an electron microscope. We hope the share with you the agony of uncertainty in the face of an epidemic of fatal disease and the triumph of containing that epidemic. Finally, we invite the reader to join us on the hunt in the jungles, villages, cities, and even deserts for those who are infected, and to visit with us the lairs of the viruses. Ultimately, through these personal accounts of real people and places, we also hope to bring a greater understanding of the viruses and their impact on humans."

I would say that they met their original intent for writing the book. Determining who exactly is writing the account can be a bit tricky after Chapter 14, Sue's Story. Once both doctors are collaborating in writing Level 4 you may find yourself stopping and checking to see who exactly is writing that specific account since they tend to jump back and forth with less than completely clear transitions. If you can ignore this and simply stick with their hunt for the viruses and dealing with less than cooperative people, etc, it is an interesting book. I would recommend Level 4 over Virus Hunter, but I'd also say that unless you are extremely interested in this topic, skip both. If you just want exciting thrill reading about viruses look at Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague or Richard Preston's The Hot Zone.

Two more virus books are in my stacks, so my recommendations may change.

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