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Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston
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Demon in the Freezer (original 2002; edition 2003)

by Richard Preston

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1,155307,046 (3.89)98
Member:LisaMaria_C
Title:Demon in the Freezer
Authors:Richard Preston
Info:Headline Paperbacks (2003), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Reviewed, Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:non-fiction, ultimate reading list - science, science, medicine, smallpox, anthrax, epidemics, biological warfare, biological weapons, biology, bioterrorism, disease, epidemiology, health, creative non-fiction, infectious disease, medical, microbiology, viruses

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The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston (2002)

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Preston is a journalist and first-rate writer. Here he focuses his investigation on the small pox virus - which, having been virtually eradicated from the natural world, is still stockpiled in the freezers of several nations. This is non-fiction that reads like the best medical thriller. Fascinating and chilling. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 26, 2016 |
2002 non-fiction about biological weapon agents smallpox and anthrax, and the American governmental defensive measures toward them. The book is mostly an account of the Smallpox Eradication Program, a discussion about smallpox’s status as a potential bioterrorism agent, and the controversy about the remaining samples. Demon in the Freezer is very much a product of its time, having been published in 2002, just after the anthrax attacks. I really thought this book was going to be about anthrax. In fact, the first few chapters and last couple chapters were about the post-9/11 anthrax attacks. But what this book was actually about was small pox. Having been born in the eighties, I never knew just how terrifying smallpox really could be -- I mean, it’s one of the most virulent diseases on the planet, so lots of people got it, right? Holy crap, smallpox make ebola look like small potatoes. Consider me educated.
( )
  lyrrael | Oct 17, 2015 |
I'd just as soon have not read Richard Preston's The Demon in the Freezer if it meant I could remain blissfully ignorant of the disturbing reality that vaccine-resistant smallpox and anthrax is undoubtedly already in the unhinged hands of jihadists or other sadistic dogmatists around the world, and that a large scale bioterrorism attack on North American soil is more a question of when than if. Yet with the bumbling bureaucratic bozos at the Pentagon running amok recently, FedEx'ing live samples of anthrax by mistake to more than fifty unsuspecting laboratories across the States and overseas, perhaps the deadliest likes of Isis are the least of the Western world's worries after all. Look in the mirror for a change, drunk Uncle Sam!

The Demon in the Freezer makes me wish I didn't know how to read -- almost -- it's that unnerving. I'd rather not know that the former Soviet Union was producing weapons-grade smallpox by the ton as late as 2001 on the eve of 9/11, and that today -- or so say several Russian scientists who've since defected to the U.S. -- the authorities in the former-USSR have no idea where those tons of weapons-grade smallpox went. Despite the worldwide "eradication" of smallpox in India in 1978, the USA and the former-USSR decided to freeze samples of the virus in order to keep it "safely stored," presumably as a "safeguard" pretext in the event it got into the "wrong hands" and a vaccine needed to be manufactured from the stored samples in an emergency.

Had our wise global protectors simply destroyed all smallpox in the first place, like they were supposed to do when whatever treaty it was got signed and contractually obliged them to do so, no one would have to worry about any virulent vials of smallpox getting smuggled into the wrong hands would they? Oh, but it's more politically complicated than that, Freeque, simply doing the right thing and destroying every ounce of it. Yeah, and only because the bigwigs in this world don't trust each another enough to follow through on their historic, much ballyhooed agreements.

The Demon In The Freezer reads like the finest of John le Carré's espionage thrillers, replete as it is with international intrigue and suspense. Can you imagine United Nations inspectors today confronting Vladimir Putin's covert bioweapons operations in Russia? Neither can I. Good luck, Doomed Earth, against vaccine-resistant smallpox and anthrax! ( )
3 vote EnriqueFreeque | Jul 18, 2015 |
A very scary look at how easily the smallpox virus could be used as a bioterrorism agent. ( )
  mojomomma | Jul 2, 2015 |
Concerning my reading, it is style over substance that I go for. If there happens to be beauty in both, I rate highly. This book was definitely substance first, style last. But the substance was so substantial it still gets a tick from me.

The Demon in the Freezer is in this case (I wonder how many cases of there being demons in the freezer there are?) the smallpox virus. Officially eradicated in 1979, scientists kept specimens of the virus alive and frozen. With the increasing threat of terror invasions of the biological weapon type, there is now a school of thought that says all stocks of the virus should be destroyed so that it cannot fall into the wrong hands and be used against human populations. This virus is not a nice one. You can get if from someone easily and unknowingly before they even know they have it, and for ten days after they show the first flu-like symptoms. Its spread in today's interwoven societies would be exponential. You die in pain and slowly if you are the one in three that it is likely to kill. This is all before the notion that stocks of the smallpox virus are probably held in freezers in Iraq, North Korea and other states of questionable repute. That they could be being modified on a genetic level to resist vaccines is of great concern to scientists and governments around the world.

Concerns about other biological weapons are discussed here too, in particular anthrax which was distributed post 9/11 via the mail in the US and proved to be both deadly to those who were exposed to its spores, and very costly to clean up after.

On a more lighthearted note, my favourite part of the book follows:

"Pox hunters have so far discovered mousepox, monkeypox, skunkpox, pigpox, goatpox, camelpox, cowpox, pseudo-cowpox, buffalopox, gerbilpox, several deerpoxes, chamoispox, a couple of sealpoxes, turkeypox, canarypox, pigeonpox, starlingpox, peacockpox, sparrowpox, juncopox, mynahpox, quailpox, parrotpox and toadpox........There's dolphinpox, penguinpox, two kangaroopoxes, raccoonpox and quokkapox........snakepox and crocpox."

But fear not, only the animal in the title gets the virus just as smallpox only uses humans as its host. This was a fast and fantastic read. ( )
  Ireadthereforeiam | Jan 21, 2014 |
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Chance favors the prepared mind.
-Louis Pasteur
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This book is lovingly dedicated to Michelle
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In the early nineteen seventies, a British photo retoucher named Robert Stevens arrived in south Florida to take a job at the National Enquirer, which is published in Palm Beach County.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345466632, Mass Market Paperback)

On December 9, 1979, smallpox, the most deadly human virus, ceased to exist in nature. After eradication, it was confined to freezers located in just two places on earth: the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Maximum Containment Laboratory in Siberia. But these final samples were not destroyed at that time, and now secret stockpiles of smallpox surely exist. For example, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the subsequent end of its biological weapons program, a sizeable amount of the former Soviet Union's smallpox stockpile remains unaccounted for, leading to fears that the virus has fallen into the hands of nations or terrorist groups willing to use it as a weapon. Scarier yet, some may even be trying to develop a strain that is resistant to vaccines. This disturbing reality is the focus of this fascinating, terrifying, and important book.

A longtime contributor to The New Yorker and author of the bestseller The Hot Zone, Preston is a skillful journalist whose work flows like a science fiction thriller. Based on extensive interviews with smallpox experts, health workers, and members of the U.S. intelligence community, The Demon in the Freezer details the history and behavior of the virus and how it was eventually isolated and eradicated by the heroic individuals of the World Health Organization. Preston also explains why a battle still rages between those who want to destroy all known stocks of the virus and those who want to keep some samples alive until a cure is found. This is a bitterly contentious point between scientists. Some worry that further testing will trigger a biological arms race, while others argue that more research is necessary since there are currently too few available doses of the vaccine to deal with a major outbreak. The anthrax scare of October, 2001, which Preston also writes about in this book, has served to reinforce the present dangers of biological warfare.

As Preston eloquently states in this powerful book, this scourge, once contained, was let loose again due to human weakness: "The virus's last strategy for survival was to bewitch its host and become a source of power. We could eradicate smallpox from nature, but we could not uproot the virus from the human heart." --Shawn Carkonen

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:37 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A true-life thriller about the return of smallpox in an engineered form. Eradicated in 1979, smallpox now has crept onto the international black market, where it is prized as the mother of all biological weapons. This is the story of a crusade by three doctors to stay a step ahead of the bioterrorists and neutralize the most contagious pathogen known.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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