In the war against diseases, they are the Special Forces.
always keep a bag packed. They seldom have more than twenty-four hours’
notice before they are dispatched. The phone calls that tell them to
head to the airport, sometimes in the middle of the night, may give them
no more information than the country they are traveling to and the
epidemic they will tackle when they get there.
The universal human instinct is to run from an outbreak of disease. These doctors run toward it.
They are the disease detective corps of the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal agency that tracks and tries
to prevent disease outbreaks and bioterrorist attacks around the world.
They are formally called the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS)—a
group founded more than fifty years ago out of fear that the Korean War
might bring the use of biological weapons—and, like intelligence
operatives in the traditional sense, they perform their work largely in
anonymity. They are not household names, but over the years they were
first to confront the outbreaks that became known as hantavirus, ebola
virus, and AIDS. Now they hunt down the deadly threats that dominate our
headlines: West Nile virus, anthrax, and SARS.
riveting narrative, Maryn McKenna—the only journalist ever given full
access to the EIS in its fifty-three-year history—follows the first
class of disease detectives to come to the CDC after September 11, the
first to confront not just naturally occurring outbreaks but the
man-made threat of bioterrorism. They are talented researchers—many
with young families—who trade two years of low pay and extremely long
hours for the chance to be part of the group that has helped eradicate
smallpox, push back polio, and solve the first major outbreaks of
Legionnaires’ disease, toxic shock syndrome, and E. coli O157.
Urgent, exhilarating, and compelling, Beating Back the Devil goes with
the EIS as they try to stop epidemics—before the epidemics stop us. Download and start listening now!