Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Inside the Hot Zone

Inside the Hot Zone by Mark G. Kortepeter
Potomac Books: 1/1/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781640121423

Inside the Hot Zone: A Soldier on the Front Lines of Biological Warfare by Mark G. Kortepeter is a highly recommended look inside USAMRIID during 1998 to 2009.

Doctor and U.S. Army Col. Mark G. Kortepeter served as the deputy commander and a biodefense expert at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, during the tumultuous years of 1998 to 2009. During his years of service the U.S. experienced some of the more frightening threats in modern germ warfare. Think about it, this was during the aftermath of 9/11 and the anthrax letters, the threat of biological weapons during the Iraq War, and a potential botulism attack on the President. USAMRIID is called out whenever the potential use of biological weapons of mass destruction (WMD) may be used and could cause unbelievable casualties. They have highly secured labs that go up to the Biosafety Level-4 maximum containment lab.

Kortepeter calls the six highest threats the Chessmen of Doom: the Pawn is botulism, the Rook is tularemia, the Knight is Ebola, the Bishop is plague, the King is smallpox, and the Queen is anthrax. He then discusses each of these and the threat they pose during different scenarios depending upon how the terrorist group weaponizes them, and the counter measures/treatments they have to have ready in case of any scenario. The account includes personal stories and the roles he and his colleagues took on, as well as the challenging and, quite frankly, sometimes unethical treatment experienced. (Okay, I was incensed at the FBI harassment of a colleague.)

This personable, entertaining account is part biography and part insider look at the Hot Zone. It is written in a manner that can be easily understood by the average reader and doesn't require an experts knowledge of biological agents or scientific research. Kortepeter clearly provides an insiders look at how complicated and detail oriented his job was, by necessity in today's political climate, and what it means to be called to action during a crisis, like the presidential botulism scare. This book will appeal to both the professional and the interested novice. The book includes 28 photos, notes, and an index.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Potomac Books.

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