Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak
by Jeanne Guillemin
Release Date: 14 December, 1999
Jeanne Guillemin's masterful account of the Sverdlovsk outbreak of anthrax in 1979 is a suspenseful medical mystery; a thoughtful analysis of the threats, real and imagined, of bioterrorism; and an intelligent tour of the sociological, political, and psychological ramifications of the event. A very appealing element of the book is the sheer power of the storytelling. We are drawn in by a personable, human, plucky narrator who, as a sociologist, a westerner, a woman, has to navigate the maze of Soviet bureaucracy to reach the human heart of the story. The portraits of those who died in the outbreak are highly detailed and poignant; the book is, in part, a testimony to the specific people who lost their lives as the result of a complex chain of events quite beyond them. I found the book compelling and moving -- a great read.
Jeanne Guillemin writes a first person account of an independent investigation of the 1979 Anthrax outbreak in Soviet Sverdlovsk. The style of writting is unique in that she intersperses throughout the book loosely related discussions of sociological and cultural literature. Anthrax comes to the conclusion that the outbreak was pulmonary anthrax emminating from Military Compound 19. The books one and only disappointment is the groups failure to investigate the military compound (they couldn't get on it)...leaving the reader with the body, the smoke, but no gun.
The author freely expresses her opinions throughout the book. She describes the personal losses from the anthrax fatalities. Her description of the casualty presentation is a must read...the mild onset followed by a sudden collapse after the anthrax eclipse. She points out several times the exagerations of risks and the BW terrorist threat.
The ending leaves one feeling uneasy with Russian officials now seeming to be less candid about the incident, and former ones pointing out the matter should be dropped due to the multi-lateral aspect of BW today.