The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston is an intriguing book that discusses the anthrax terrorist attacks after 9/11 and how smallpox might become a future bioterrorist threat to the world. The book provides a brief history of the smallpox disease including details of an outbreak in Germany in 1970. The disease was eradicated in 1979 due to the World Health Organization’s aggressive vaccine program. After the virus was no longer a treat the World Health Organization discontinued recommending the smallpox vaccination. In conjunction, inventory of the vaccine was decreased to save money. The virus was locked up in two labs, one in the United States and one in Russia. However, some feel the smallpox virus exists elsewhere. Dr. Peter Jahrling and a team of scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland became concerned terrorists had access to the smallpox virus and planed to alter the strain to become more resistant. These doctors conducted smallpox experiments to discover more effective vaccines in case the virus were released. Preparedness for a major epidemic is discussed as well as the ease with which smallpox can be bioengineered.
The Demon in the Freezer is divided into eight sections. It begins with the upsetting details surrounding the sudden death of Robert Stevens, just three weeks after the attacks of September 11, 2001. An autopsy showed Mr. Stevens died of inhalation anthrax. Subsequent anthrax illnesses among people exposed to letters laced with anthrax frightened the nation. Some thought the letters might also contain smallpox, but fortunately this was not the case. “There had been only eighteen cases of inhalation anthrax in the past hundred years in the United States, and the last reported case had been twenty-three years earlier” (5). It is no wonder that people became alarmed at the threat of a major anthrax outbreak.
The book jumps to a distressing story about Peter Los in 1970...
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