The Fatal Strain

The Fatal Strain

On the Trail of Avian Flu and the Coming Pandemic

Book - 2009
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A riveting account of why science alone can't stop the next pandemic

Outbreaks of avian and swine flu have reawakened fears that had lain dormant for nearly a century, ever since the influenza pandemic of 1918 that killed at least 50 million people worldwide. When a highly lethal strain of avian flu broke out in Asia in recent years and raced westward, the Washington Post 's Alan Sipress chased the emerging threat as it infiltrated remote jungle villages, mountain redoubts, and teeming cities. He tracked the virus across nine countries, watching its secrets repeatedly elude the world's brightest scientists and most intrepid disease hunters. Savage and mercurial, this novel influenza strain--H5N1--has been called the kissing cousin of the Spanish flu and, with just a few genetic tweaks, could kill millions of people. None of us is immune.

The Fatal Strain is a fast-moving account that weaves cultural, political, and scientific strands into a tale of inevitable epidemic. In his vivid portrayal of the struggle between man and microbe, Sipress chronicles the accelerating number of near misses and explores the cruel dynamic that has often made Asia the fountainhead of killer flu strains. Even more than modern medicine, it is chicken smugglers, fighting cock breeders, and witch doctors who could determine the evolution of this viral menace by allowing it to breed and speeding it on its way.

The ease of international travel and the delicate balance of today's global economy have left the world vulnerable to pandemic in a way the victims of 1918 could never imagine. But it is human failings that may pose the greatest peril. Political bosses in country after country have covered up outbreaks. Ancient customs, like trading in live poultry and the ritual release of birds to earn religious merit, have failed to adapt to the microbial threat. The world's wealthy countries have left poorer, frontline countries without affordable vaccines or other weapons for confronting the disease, fostering a sense of grievance that endangers us all.

The chilling truth is that we don't have command over the H5N1 virus. It continues to spread, thwarting efforts to uproot it. And as it does, the viral dice continue to roll, threatening to produce a pandemic strain that is both deadly and can spread as easily as the common cold. Swine flu has reminded us that flu epidemics happen. Sipress reminds us something far worse could be brewing.

Publisher: New York : Viking, 2009.
ISBN: 9780670021277
Characteristics: xii, 386 p., [8] p. of plates : map ; 24 cm.


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May 28, 2015

One really cannot improve upon the elucidating comments of the commenter donkeyhote below. My only additional remark is that this very wanting book has been thoroughly invalidated by the weaponization of the avian flu by junior scientists at the University of Wisconsin and a Dutch research institute, by the proteges of Dr. Rubin of University of Pennsylvania's Bio-Threat Control department.

Apr 28, 2015

I am surprised that everyone want to read the Jack The Ripper book, but no-one wants to read this (false) book about the coming plague, although in 2008 it has been announced by Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, that "Swine flu will be biggest pandemic ever". (She also told in that report that there will be other big problems, such as a "vaccine crisis", and other illnesses will also appear (like dysentery = chronic skittering); and food production will drop by half in Africa 20 years from now. She did not say what will cause it. OK, so I read the back of the MP3 version of this book (
The Fatal Strain), and I have some serious doubts about its sincerity. My objections are:
1-It was written not by a scientist, but a news editor, whose expertise is in fooling the public, not in biology
2-He says it's quickly mutating (i.e. the bird flew) and will certainly get to humans from the birds soon - if it's not here yet, how does he know it's fatal?
3-He says the flu cannot be escaped from, as it has "Infiltrated" even jungle villages. Because migrating birds spread it? In Jungles there are no migrant birds, guys!
4-He says the flu "eludes" the scientists. How? For decades it has not been possible to find out where it comes from and how to deal with it? It does not exist yet and is already fatal?
5-Dr.Bill Deagle, PhD said in his radio show "Nutri-Medical Report And Clay And Iron Show" in 2007, that the bird flu was created in Switzerland in a lab, by genetically manipulating the swine flu bug. This is why it eludes scientists: they search around turkeys and chickens and not pigs. Pigs have wings, though, as wrote P.G.Wodehouse in one of his excellent humorous stories.


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