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Living Terrors: What America Needs to Know to Survive the Coming Bioterrorist Catastrophe Paperback – October 9, 2001


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Living Terrors: What America Needs to Know to Survive the Coming Bioterrorist Catastrophe + Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War + The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (October 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385334818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385334815
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"We are ... at the brink of a new age: what some experts call catastrophic terrorism," write Michael T. Osterholm (an epidemiologist) and John Schwartz (a Washington Post science reporter) at the start of this slim volume. What's more, "the United States is not doing enough to prepare." Smallpox, anthrax, bubonic plague--a smart terrorist could use any of these deadly diseases to wreak havoc on thousands or even millions of Americans. Yet there aren't enough antibiotics and vaccines in stockpile, public-health facilities can't handle a "surge," and most law enforcement agencies have no idea how to cope with a crisis. "I do not believe it is a question of whether a lone terrorist or terrorist group will use infectious disease agents to kill unsuspecting citizens; I'm convinced it's really just a question of when and where," writes Osterholm in the introduction.

Books about disease and bioterrorism have become a subgenre in recent years, following the popular success of Richard Preston's The Hot Zone and Ken Alibek's Biohazard. Living Terrors probably provides the best quick-and-dirty guide to the problem for lay readers, with its harrowing descriptions of why certain diseases are so fatal and its clear assessment of America's disturbing vulnerabilities. Each chapter begins with a fictionalized account of how an attack might occur. In one, Osterholm and Schwartz write of a disgruntled scientist who loads anthrax into a crop-duster and flies over a crowded stadium. The authors believe this kind of sensationalism is completely warranted, given the nature of the threat and federal government's lackadaisical response to it. The point, they say, is "to warn you that the threat of biological terrorism is real without frightening you out of your wits. Instead, we hope to frighten you into your wits." --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

With the help of Washington Post science writer Schwartz, Osterholm (formerly chief state epidemiologist in Minnesota) sounds a frightening alarm in this compact book. "I do not believe it is a question of whether a lone terrorist or terrorist group will use infectious disease agents to kill unsuspecting citizens," he writes. "I'm convinced it's really just a question of when and where." Combining urgent, fact-filled prose with a series of fictional scenarios, the book outlines the scope of the potential threat. Osterholm introduces the various types of people and organizations he thinks might be planning to unleash an epidemic on a major U.S. city; he covers the six diseases that pose the greatest threat (such as anthrax and smallpox); he explains how underprepared we are for such an attack; and he proposes a "seven-point plan for change" (including stockpiling antibiotics and vaccines). Its hard to know whether Osterholm's panic is justified, as he prudently declines to get into the sort of detail that could facilitate a terrorist attack. But although the threats he describes are bone-chilling, his pro-public health, seven-point plan is sensible and compelling. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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It is a very quick read, and easily understood by the target readers.
Mark Johnson
Like a Steven King novel, as you read this book, the hair on the back of your neck will begin to rise and your palms will begin to sweat.
gerald blackburn
Dr. Osterholm ends the book with an "eight point plan" to improve readiness in the case of a bioterrorism attack.
George Dawson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 84 people found the following review helpful By George Dawson on November 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Living Terrors is a book that should be read by all Americans. The
book is written by Michael T. Osterholm, Ph.D. and science journalist
John Schwartz. It is based largely on Dr. Osterholm's experience as
an epidemiologist, his expertise in biological weapons, and his
efforts to educate the public on the threats of bioterrorism. He
illustrates several points about the unique aspects of this threat by
beginning chapters with fictional vignettes about hypothetical
bioterrorists. The emphasis is on the general anonymity of the
perpetrators, ready availability of biological agents, and the
difficulty tracking the terrorist. He uses the subsequent chapters to
argue that the bacteria and viruses are readily available and the
technology for dispersing easily learned. He discusses estimates of
potential loss of life and economic damage from a bioterrorist
attack.
The second half of the book describes a hypothetical
smallpox attack on the city of Chicago. Most Americans over the age
of thirty have some recollection of smallpox vaccinations they
received as a child. The wild form of smallpox was eradicated in 1977
and the World Health Organization recommended discontinuing
vaccinations against it in 1980. The only remaining smallpox was in
laboratories in the United States and the Soviet Union. The authors
present evidence here that other countries have this agent and that
the combination of high infectivity, high lethality, and low immunity
make it lethal if dispersed by a terrorist.
Living Terrors also
focuses on systems and logistics that need to be addressed.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By gerald blackburn on October 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It arrived late on a Thursday evening. Like the rest of the world, I had much to do over the coming weekend. I would get to it when I had time. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of picking up Living Terrors late that night and scanning the cover jacket. The next thing I knew, I was finishing the second chapter. What was I thinking? By 6 a.m. Sunday morning, I had completed the book and began to consider what I could say to emphasize its critical message. I had yet to get to my weekend chores.
First, a disclaimer. While at a national meeting on infectious diseases in the fall of 1998, almost solely out of curiosity, I decided to listen to a presentation on "Bioterrorism" by Dr. Osterholm. I was familiar with him from a distance - he was a well known expert in food borne illnesses and the like, while at the Minnesota Department of Public Health. Like a child being told by his older sibling that there is no Santa Claus, what I heard that day I desperately wanted not to be true, but in my heart, like that child, I knew it was, and I could not go back. Since that time, I have become more and more interested in bioterrorism (defined as the intentional use of biologic agents or their products for the purpose of producing disease among humans, animals or plants) while at the same time convinced that Dr. Osterholm's concerns are right on the mark. It was with this bias that I eagerly awaited publication of his book.
As one who grew up during the Cold War, I remember all too well the fears of nuclear war - the civil defense drills and the scenes on black and white television of a simulated nuclear blast with instructions to "take cover". These fears were magnified many fold as I grew older, married, had children and began to slightly understand the true implications of it all.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm part of the problem! I'm one of those individuals that Mike Osterholm talks about in this very important book. Unfortunately he is right on target. The federal response, of which I'm supposed to be a part of, remains disorganized and lacking leadership. In my small way, I thought I could help change that as part of the public health leadership within the great governmental bureaucracy. In fact, I read Living Terrors hoping to convince myself that Dr. Osterholm was wrong. However, as I watch the political paralysis occurring around the election results and the continued stalemate, even within the Administration, I'm not optimistic. We can't get influenza vaccine to the general population this year, how are we ever going to respond to an unplanned crisis of the likes of a bioterrorism event? Even the recent passage of the Frist/Kennedy legislation to improve the public health infrastructure (and response to bioterrorism) gives me concern. In that legislation much of the control of funds to support bioterrorism response will still be under the control of the Depts of Defense and Justice; not HHS, the public health/medical research arm of the federal system. The above comments are really just setting the table to say, if you really care about our future and the potential of what bioterrorism can and will do to our country, you should take to heart what Dr. Osterholm has said. I know my coworkers who have read the book all wish our bosses and their bosses would read it and take it to heart. I'm afraid that is not going to happen on this watch and I'm not optmistic it will happen on the next one, regardless of who is President. If we are to get our act together, it will have to come from the people...who in turn get their local, state and federal elected officials to REALLY understand the issues and respond accordingly. Dr Osterholm's book should be the their Bible. It's the best we've got.
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