Constant readers: Some of you know that my first book, published five years ago, was a narrative and history of the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service, the young, committed corps of MDs and PhDs who give up two years of their lives to serve on front-line outbreak SWAT teams.
The EIS are very important right now, because there are almost 100 CDC people in the field, in Mexico and in US cities and other countries where H1N1 swine flu is emerging.
My next book — the one for which this blog is the whiteboard — is being published by the same imprint, Free Press, part of Simon & Schuster. So because the EIS is so crucial to the outbreak investigation, FP has relaxed their rights and very graciously allowed me to fling up some parts of Beating Back the Devil on the web, for free, to my regular readers.
My web skills are not magnificent, and my site has outgrown the program I used to build it. However: If you go to this page, you'll see a section that announces Excerpts! And in it you'll find a prologue and two chapters in various formats. (We did this fast; it is messy. Sorry.)
I particularly recommend Chapter 13 [pdf], which is a narrative of the SARS outbreak in Asia, starting with an EIS officer named Dr. Joel Montgomery staring down a tray of blood samples in a laboratory in Vietnam. (I wrote about the importance of serology — blood-analysis — surveys to swine flu at CIDRAP tonight.) The description of that outbreak response should give you a good flavor of what the CDC investigators are doing and thinking about now. And, bonus, it talks about some little-known cases of avian flu H5N1; we did not know at the time how important those cases would turn out to be.
If you have time, there are also links to sections that FP has posted on their own site: Chapter 1, which will tell you who the EIS are and why the corps exists (Korean War veterans will know already); and the book's Prologue, which takes you inside the first bioterror-response training that EIS members ever endured.
I hope you enjoy.