The infectious prediction of thrillers

Some writers land in the right place at the right time. Others anticipate, showing us what life might look like in a few years if things go horribly wrong. Many of the near-futurists build their plots on epidemics. Bob Reiss (Black Monday) did it with oil. Patricia Gussin (Weapon of Choice) does it with biologics.

In Gussin’s novel, published in 2012 but set in 1985, thoracic surgeon Dr. Laura Nelson gets caught in a medical and bureaucratic firestorm when a fast-moving staph infection spreads through her hospital at the same time the facility receives its first AIDS patient. Aside from delivering a decent thriller, the author shows what happens when antibiotic-resistant infections spread, and how hospitals and agencies such as the CDC must work quickly to contain the disease.

Weapon-of-Choice-3DSince Gussin is not only a physician but the former vice president of consumer pharmaceuticals at healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, she writes with great detail . . . and frightening authority. Frightening because people can use these microbes as weapons.

All of which leads us to the latest crisis in healthcare, the threat of an Ebola pandemic. People worry about travel and transmission. Writers evoke images of the plague. Institutions scramble to contain, treat and reassure.

In Gussin’s book, she details CDC protocols for isolation and decontamination. Have they improved since 1985? Do they work as well in airports as they do in books?

When you look into the near future, what do you see?

For polio the end is near

Rotary is this close to helping world health organizations eradicate polio.

In 1985 there were 350,000 cases of the crippling disease in 125 countries. Today, thanks to the efforts of Rotarians, the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, the number of endemic countries has been reduced to four: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Still, if people don’t act, more than 10 million children will be paralyzed in the next 40 years.

After 20 years of work, Rotary International is making a final push to eradicate the disease. It is asking the world community to help raise $555 million to directly support immunization campaigns in developing countries. “As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk,” Rotary states on its website. “The stakes are that high.”