- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Random House; 1St Edition edition (2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0965619664
- ISBN-13: 978-0965619660
- Package Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 450 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story Paperback – 2002
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In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the USA, the western world had to deal with a new threat: bioterrorism. In October 2001, a series of anthrax attacks through the postal system caused chaos and fear. But there was a far greater danger that had government security advisers around the world even more alarmed: smallpox. In his terrifying account of what happened, and what could still happen, Richard Preston reveals the true horror faced by victims of smallpox, raises serious questions about what happened to the smallpox viruses that were kept in storage after the disease was 'eradicated' in 1979, and shows just how easy it would be to create new strains of smallpox that would be able to overcome any vaccination, leaving the population defenceless.
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Unlike nation-state attempts to produce material for nuclear weapons, bio-weapons do not require the scale or leave the signatures of nuclear material production.
The author does a great job in describing the process of taking an already deadly threat and engineering it into an even more dangerous threat using commonly available technology and knowledge. Forget the massive arrays of centrifuges needed for production of weapons grade nuclear materials. This is stuff that can be done in something not much more sophisticated that the typical meth lab once the bio-engineering is completed. It's interesting to talk with those who deal with the cleanup of meth labs, more and more meth labs are being operated out of campers and trailers with no fixed location.
Deployment of bio-weapons is made far easier when survival of the attackers is not a consideration in the plan.
In addition to the threat of the disease, its impact on the population would be catastrophic. The problem of containment in a mobile, self centered population almost guarantees that geographic quarantine of an exposed population will not work. Our personal resources and attitudes would be a great friend of the epidemic.
Without protection for health workers and those who are needed to deliver food and other essentials a total breakdown of civil order is almost assured.
In the face of even a small scale bio attack the overextended trauma system would offer little help. The recent rail crash outside Los Angeles left about 130 injured, about half with minor injuries. The balance, perhaps 65 people were distributed to trauma centers up to 50 miles away due to the vastly reduced capability of the regional trauma centers to deal with more than the normal day to day crash and gunshot victims. Each year marks the further reduction in capacity of the trauma care systems in most areas as hospitals fail or reduce capacity.
There are no easy answers but what is clear is that wishing the threat will go away and ignoring the need to research better options for handling it when it comes will be judged harshly when those who survive write the history of this era.
Highly readable and unforgettable. In an election year it should be one of the topics up for discussion rather than the daily drivel.
The book details the history of smallpox and profiles many of those who helped eradicate it back in the 1970s or who currently conduct research in the this field. What makes the book compelling (and frightening) are those sections in which Preston describes the lack of control of the surviving strains (supposedly located in only two laboratories through the world) and how easily those strains could be engineered to produce apocalyptic-level bioweapons. Unlike a horror novel that the reader knows is fiction, The Demon in the Freezer will keep you up at night because this scenario is a possibility.
Anthrax before this book seemed like a distant thought but knowing how easy it could be for an outbreak to happen anytime is scary. Most scary i how these diseases are said to be possible weapons in wars in the future. So yes the book won't be re-read but i'm glad I did.
This book reads like a thriller, and it was hard to put down.
Fantastic, absolutely fantastic.