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The Killer Strain: Anthrax and a Government Exposed Hardcover – April 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0060522780 ISBN-10: 006052278X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006052278X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060522780
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,729,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a medical mystery that has the tension and pace of Richard Preston's The Hot Zone but lacks its satisfying sense of closure, Washington Post investigative reporter Thompson recounts the events surrounding the anthrax attacks of late 2001. Though she alludes to possible connections between the weaponized anthrax found in several letters and al-Qaida (as well as domestic scientists), Thompson's story is more about the successes and failures of the public health process than a whodunit. Ranging from the Florida offices of American Media Inc. to the halls of Congress, she uses extensive interviews to describe the behind-the-scenes responses to the appearance of anthrax-filled envelopes in the U.S. mail. What emerges isn't so harsh a condemnation as the title indicates, but rather a portrait of scientists, doctors, politicians and law enforcement officials, all trying to defuse a biological crisis while working within conflicting institutional traditions. While she valorizes the scientists working to identify the sources of the seemingly disconnected anthrax cases, Thompson seems most interested in the postal workers who were put at risk-unnecessarily, she says-in the course of their day-to-day jobs. She begins and ends with the story of Leroy Richmond, who inhaled aerosolized anthrax spores while working at the Brentwood postal facility in Washington, D.C., but survived the infection, and Thompson's book is ultimately a tribute to him and the other postal workers who were victims of what she concludes was "a preventable industrial accident exacerbated by a series of government blunders and bad judgments." 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The anthrax coda to 9/11 was a frightening harbinger of the insidiousness of large-scale bioterror. This account builds on original reporting by its author, a Washington Post editor. Thompson interviewed survivors as well as microbiologists assigned the task of identifying what caused illness and deaths in the wake of the attacks. The upshot of Thompson's narrative is that agencies, the FBI in particular, responded poorly to the crisis, but whatever her assessment of the government's performance, Thompson mainly focuses on a blow-by-blow account of the anthrax episodes of fall 2001. She spares no medical detail on what anthrax does, presenting its course of symptoms as experienced by postal workers in the Washington, D.C., area and victims in Florida and New York. Thompson gives no quarter to the federal government's spin on the attacks, lending spice to what overall is a dispassionate, just-the-facts-ma'am narrative. That will be valuable to readers revisiting the federal health agencies' response to the anthrax attack, and worried about their competence in dealing with the next one. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Salinas Flores on October 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Killer Strain: Anthrax and the Exposed Medicine
I am peruvian medical , and for some years , have been investigating anthrax in Peru, reason why caused to much interest for me the appearance of the book: The Killer Strain.
The book that narrates the events related to the first outbreak of bioterrorismo in the U.S.A., submerges to us in the interior of the scientific work during the epidemic , show some more than appears in the scientific journals . Although the author certainly has obtained much related information to this epidemic, probably, the lack of a biomedica formation, has taken it to an incomplete vision of the epidemic of anthrax. The book shows some mistakes that reflect the nonmedica formation of the author, as a sample : in the figures of the book, call as symptoms to the injuries of the skin,instead of use signs. Would had been ideal that some medical professional help in revising or writing the book.
Maybe , the great problem in analyzing this epidemic is that in the world exist few experts in anthrax As the same author recognizes in her book, many doctors what participated in the epidemic , never has been sight a case of anthrax. (1) For that reason many mistakes that exist during the epidemic maybe has been unnoticed. Some of these faults in the epidemic, can be justified by the low degree of scientific knowledge with respect to this pathology, maybe for example : not to diagnose inhalational anthrax.
Inhalation anthrax is the main clinical form in the bioterrorism scope given its high mortality, however early diagnosis (a time when treatment can be effective),(2) is rather difficult to achieve In their initial stage symptoms of inhalation anthrax are very similar to influenza .
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a very carefully written account of the anthrax mailings with an emphasis on the victims and the governmental response. It sheds little new light on the investigation which to this day has still not turned up a suspect.
Marilyn W. Thompson, who is an editor at the Washington Post, and her research assistants, Davene Grosfeld and Maryanne Warrick, interviewed scores of people from Leroy Richmond, a postal employee who almost died from inhalation anthrax, to Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, then director of the Centers for Disease Control, in putting together the story. But apparently they were not able to interview anybody in the FBI, nor did they talk to Steven J. Hatfill, who was dubbed by Attorney General John Ashcroft as "a person of interest" in the investigation and was prominently in the public eye as a possible suspect. Much of the material was culled from news sources and public records. Consequently, what we have here is a presentation of what is publically known about the case and a record of events.
One of the aspects that Thompson concentrates on is the differential between the public health response to the anthrax found on Capitol Hill and the response to that found at the Brentwood Mail Processing and Distribution Center in Washington, D.C. with the suggestion that there was a dual standard at work, one for the white and powerful and another for the black and blue collar. This may be so, but the most damaging criticism she presents--against the CDC at least--is their failure to realize that anthrax could escape a sealed envelope. However it could, and did, especially in the Brentwood Center.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By PF-Flyer on August 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I cannot believe that a Washington Post investigative writer would include allusions to "connections to al Qaeda" in a book on the anthrax attacks. Why do we find this in the offical book description? Why would an author or publisher want that as part of the official description, unless they're pandering to the neocons and collaborating with damage-control propaganda?

These connections were "hinted," of course, by the bogus letters talking about Allah, which were sent along with the anthrax. And the Bush administration and its fans are working very hard to get the public (and the FBI) to stop thinking, and claiming, that the profile of the perpetrator points to a domestic, right-wing, inside job.

Surveys have shown that a high percent of US citizens, never much lower than 50%, have believed for years that Iraq and al Qaeda were in league with each other for the 9-11 attacks. This has been disproved, and Bush has even admitted as much--but then Cheney keeps talking as if the connection is there.

Give it up. It was the Easter Bunny. It was Santa Claus. It was the Great Pumpkin who sent the Anthrax letters, cooking up and weaponizing the anthrax in the pumpkin patch, weaponizing it by a process known only to a relatively small group inside the US military-intelligence community. That makes as much sense as any speculation about al Qaeda, which only serves to deflect attention from the FBI's findings, that it was an inside job.

Read the news stories since the events first unfolded, and you will notice the damage control, the effort to blame al Qaeda or Iraq, and to turn public opinion away from the FBI's original findings.

A government exposed?
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