Author(s): Karl Taro Greenfeld
Was the 2003 SARS outbreak a warning of deadly epidemics to come? Acclaimed author and journalist Karl Taro Greenfeld was on the spot when the disease was discovered. His taut, thriller-like account tells the compelling story of a lethal microbe that learnt to jump between species - from animal to human - with brutal efficiency, killing a large number of its victims and terrifying millions around the world. China Syndrome takes us on a gripping ride from the bedside of one of the first Chinese victims, via cutting-edge labs where the researchers race to identify the new illness, to conference rooms at the World Health Organization as officials desperately try to determine the true extent of the epidemic - despite a scandalous cover-up by the Chinese government. As Greenfeld reveals, the outbreak of SARS - and, now, the convergence of a deadly strain of Avian Flu - is part of a pattern of evidence suggesting that the next pandemic will also emerge from Asia. It could be more virulent and difficult to contain than anything we've ever encountered. And it's long overdue. Is humanity ready? Extract from China Syndrome by Karl Taro Greenfeld Acclaimed author and journalist Karl Taro Greenfeld was at the scene of the SARS outbreak. His taut, thriller-like account tells the compelling story of a lethal microbe that learnt to jump between species ? from animal to human ? with brutal efficiency. This extract is set in the pre-SARS China of 2002, when the economy was booming chaotically, and the people were enjoying what would come to be known as the Era of Wild Flavor. Greenfeld describes the bustling, blood-stained alleys of Guangzhou?s market stalls and restaurants ? an environment as ripe for business as for disease: During the Era of Wild Flavor, the range, scope, and amount of wild animal cuisine consumed would increase to include virtually every species on land, sea, or air. Wild Flavor was supposed to give you face, to bring you luck, to make you fan rong, ?prosperous?. That expression, fan rong, had become the preferred phrase used in the Delta to denote anything that was cool. Wild Flavor tycoons could visit a brothel in Donguan reputed to be the world?s largest, where one could choose from more than one thousand women on display behind a glass viewing wall. There were rumours that, for the right price, one could order soup made from human babies, which was believed to imbue the diner with fantastic virility. A startlingly musk smell overwhelmed me as I walked between the stalls. I realized it was a combination of the faeces of a thousand different animal species mingled with their panicked breaths. The range and scope of wildlife on display was a zoological chart brought to life. I had a list of banned animals that the director of the Wild Animal Protection office had given me. I asked a vendor for the rare bird species, the monkey, the tiger. ?No problem,? I was told by a smiling man with buck teeth who said he was from Guangxi Zhuang. ?What about the regulator?? I asked. ?No problem.? He pointed to a fellow in a gray-and-blue uniform sitting on a white plastic chair, flicking his cigarette ashes against a bag of banned snakes. ?Okay, how about mountain lion?? ?No problem.? ?Brown bear?? ?No problem.? I decided to push my luck. ?How about panda?? He shook his head. ?You must be sick.?