Twenty-First Century Plague

The Story of SARS


Thomas Abraham

ISBN : 978-962-209-702-5

Medicine, Health Sciences, Public Health

September 2004

180 pages, 6″ x 9″

Not for sale in Canada, the USA, or Europe

  • HK$195.00

Also available in Paperback HK$160.00

In the autumn of 2002 in southern China, a previously unknown virus jumped the species barrier from animal to man, and sparked the first global epidemic of the new century. The disease sped along the air routes of a globalized world, spreading within months to 31 countries in every continent.

Before it was reined in by a remarkable international scientific effort, the virus demonstrated just how vulnerable human society is to disease. Emerging new infectious diseases like SARS have been erupting at an alarming rate over the past few decades. There is every indication that the world will continue to face new viral diseases, some of which will be much more lethal and contagious than SARS.

This book looks at the emergence of new diseases, as well as the politics and economics of disease. It provides the first behind-the-scenes account of how the battle against SARS was fought in Hong Kong, China and at the global level. A crucial success in the battle was the identification of the SARS virus.

Thomas Abraham, with full access to the scientists who solved this puzzle, tells the story of the research and vividly shows the pressures on the researchers as they raced to find an answer, even as colleagues and friends succumbed to the disease.

Thomas Abraham is one of Asia’s most experienced international journalists with a 25-year career reporting from locations as varied as Sri Lanka, Geneva, and London. He has also worked for the United Nations in Geneva, and has been a commentator for BBC news programs. A former editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, he is currently on the faculty of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong.

“The rush to contain and unmask the agent responsible . . . had more plot twists than anything Robert Ludlum ever wrote.” —Ruth Richardson, The Lancet

“Abraham gives us an excellent and dispassionate account of the cultural and political background to the cover-up and the unfortunate consequences.” —Nature

“Abraham offers insights into the ‘dos and don’ts’ of managing a public health crisis and provides key learning points.” —Suok Kai Chew, Journal of the American Medical Association

“A ringside account of the world’s recent encounter with the emerging infectious disease SARS. Engagingly written by an accomplished journalist.” —Robert Dorit, American Scientist

“In this detailed report by Abraham, the inability of health care systems to cope with such newly emergent infections is clear.” —Choice

“The book is richly filled with facts, and they are conveyed in a captivating manner. It is as impressive as the film Outbreak.” —New England Journal of Medicine

Twenty-First Century Plague describes many of the people, events, political settings, and other contributing factors in a fascinating view of the story behind the story of the outbreak.” —Larry J. Anderson, Science

“The book provides an important summary of many aspects of the global experience with a new disease and discusses important lessons learned from the SARS response.” —James M. Hughes, Journal of Clinical Investigation