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Virus Hunter


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C. J. Peters is an international expert and consultant on emerging diseases. He has worked in the field of infectious diseases for more than three decades, having served as the chief of special pathogens at the Center for Disease Control and as chief of the Disease Assessment Division at U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Peters was the head of the unit that contained the outbreak of Ebola at Reston, Virginia, and was instrumental in establishing the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), a Bio-safety Level 4 lab. In 2000 he was named the John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Tropical and Emerging Virology at UTMB. He lives on Galveston with his wife.


Richard Preston's best-selling The Hot Zone (LJ 8/94) dramatized the 1989 Ebola outbreak among monkeys in Reston, Virginia, and described conflicts between the two men most responsible for dealing with the outbreak, Joe McCormick of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and C.J. Peters of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Eventually, McCormick left the CDC, and Peters assumed his former position there. Now both men have published their sides of the story in their respective memoirs. McCormick's Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC (LJ 7/96) is a somewhat disjointed but gripping account of hair-raising adventures investigating such deadly diseases as Ebola and Lassa Fever in Africa and elsewhere. Peters's adventures, while often exciting, can't match McCormick's in number and variety, but his book is more smoothly written and provides an interesting overview of its author's career and education in the workings of medical bureaucracies. He also provides important insights into the mentality at USAMRIID, formerly a biological warfare center. As Peters reminds us, some emerging diseases possess horrifying potential as agents of biological warfare. Recommended for general readers.‘Marit MacArthur, Auraria Lib., Denver

"Virus Hunter is a terrific book, at the top of my list. The adventure of a lifetime, it's the inside story of the hunt for threatening and emerging viruses, told with grace and clarity by a working scientist at the hot center of his field." --Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone

"As entertaining as an adventure novel, but with a deadly serious message." --Kirkus Reviews "Peters has enjoyed an impressive career studying and combating deadly viruses around the world, from various South American hemorrhagic viruses to the Ebola virus. . . . [His] biography is fascinating." --Publishers Weekly

As past chief of the Disease Assessment Division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and as the current chief of the Viral Special Pathogens Branch at the Centers for Disease Control, Peters has enjoyed an impressive career studying and combating deadly viruses around the world, from various South American hemorrhagic viruses to the Ebola virus and those causing Rift Valley fever. Indeed, Peters was the officer in charge of containing the Ebola outbreak in a Reston, Va., primate facility chronicled in The Hot Zone. With such a wealth of material to draw upon, Peters's autobiography is fascinating‘at least when it focuses on science and epidemiology. When it detours into his non-professional personal life and the numerous divorces and remarriages of his colleagues, it is plain tedious. The final two chapters detail, with frightening specificity, preparations undertaken to combat chemical and biological threats posed by Iraq during the Gulf War, the very real possibility of chemical and biological terrorism and the increased likelihood of deadly epidemics arising from our ongoing disruptions of natural ecosystems. Written with the aid of Olshaker (MindHunter), this book's prose is overblown at times, but its portentous message is always perfectly clear. Major ad/promo; author tour. (May)

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