Demon in the Freezer Overview

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The Demon in the Freezer is a 2002 non-fiction book on the biological weapon agents smallpox and anthrax and how the American government develops defensive measures against them. It was written by journalist Richard Preston, also author of the best-selling book The Hot Zone (1994), about outbreaks of Ebola virus in Africa and Reston, Virginia and the US government's response to them.

The book is primarily an account of the Smallpox Eradication Program (1967–80), the ongoing perception by the U.S. government that smallpox is still a potential bioterrorism agent, and the controversy over whether or not the remaining samples of smallpox virus in Atlanta and Moscow (the “demon” in the freezer) should be finally destroyed. However, the writer was overtaken by events — the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax letter incidents (called "Amerithrax"), both in 2001 — and so much of the book interweaves the anthrax investigation with the smallpox material in an awkward [1] and somewhat disjointed [2][3] manner.

Section 1, “Something in the Air”, begins h a day-by-day account of the anthrax letter attacks in Florida and Washington, DC, for the period 2 to 15 October 2001. Robert Stevens, a photo retoucher for the tabloid, The Sun was a victim and US Senator Tom Daschle was an intended victim. The reactions of the FBI, the CDC and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) are detailed. Section 2, “The Dreaming Demon”, looks back to an outbreak of smallpox at St Walberga Hospital in Meschede, Germany. The successful efforts organized by local public health authorities and the WHO -- including a textbook example of ring vaccination containment -- are described. Section 3, “To Bhola Island”, describes the variety and evolution of poxviruses and the history of smallpox in particular. The story of the SEP (Smallpox Eradication Program, referred to throughout as “the Eradication”), led by DA Henderson and others is...
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