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China Syndrome


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About the Author

Karl Taro Greenfeld, the former editor of Time Asia, is the author of Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan's Next Generation and Standard Deviations: Growing Up and Coming Down in the New Asia.


Greenfeld's ground zero perspective on SARS-he was editing Time Asia when the first rumors of a virulent disease sweeping mainland Chinese hospitals hit his desk-brings reportorial immediacy to this chronicle of how epidemiologists realized that the cases of "atypical pneumonia" scattered throughout Asia were the initial wave of severe acute respiratory syndrome, a new strain of avian flu. Greenfeld's portraits present multiple angles on the story, such as a young man who falls sick after emigrating to the big city and a doctor who bravely volunteers to treat patients despite the huge risk of infection. The author also describes his own reactions while trying to keep his family and magazine staff safe in Hong Kong amid growing panic, and muses on how congested urban areas provide a perfect breeding ground for viruses. But he repeatedly returns to the most egregious factor in the disease's spread: the silence from (and outright suppression of information by) the Chinese government during the earliest stages of the epidemic. SARS could have been much worse, he warns, and we almost certainly will see its like again-and for all the heroic struggles to contain the danger, his final prognosis is not a happy one. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

In late 2002, a virus passed from animal to man and emerged in China as the cause of severe (or sudden) acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). By late spring 2003, it had spread through much of the world before being contained. Most fatalities occurred in mainland China, where 5,327 people were infected and 349 died, and in Hong Kong, where 299 died. Greenfeld (Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan's Next Generation) was the Hong Kong-based editor of Time Asia during the outbreak, and here he traces the origins and spread of the disease in a chronological drumbeat that sometimes follows the events by day. Scientific competition to be the first to identify the cause and then to learn as much as possible about it was hindered at every step by a Chinese government reluctant to admit to any problem. Nonetheless, the Time Asia staff eventually gained inside sources and helped unravel the cover-up. Greenfeld moves quickly, often conjuring a thriller, and his personal and professional involvement give his account, which covers much of the same ground as Thomas Abraham's Twenty-First Century Plague: The Story of SARS, a unique perspective. Recommended for all public libraries.-Dick Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hosp. Medical Lib., Denver Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

A work of riveting, relevant journalism...a dexterous approach that recalls Randy Shilts's AIDS history And the Band Played On.--The Village Voice

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