Secret Agents:

Secret Agents:

The Menace of Emerging Infections (2002)

332 pages | 6 x 9

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332 pages | 6 x 9

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Secret Agents:

The Menace of Emerging Infections (2002)

Contractual obligations prohibit us from offering a free PDF of this title published under the Joseph Henry Press imprint of the National Academies Press.

The views expressed in this book are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academies.

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Madeline Drexler

Suggested Citation

Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2002.

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Named to Science Books & Films 2003 Best Books List

Silver Medalist in Health, ForeWord Magazine's 2002 Book of the Year Award

" authoritative, well-paced, vividly written book that will scare the pants off you. It's so up-to-date it includes even the recent anthrax attacks... All in all, Drexler has produced a fascinating book that everyone (except perhaps serious hypochondriacs) ought to read."
-- The New York Times Book Review, February 17, 2002

"Any outbreak of unknown cause is a mystery waiting to be solved, and the best outbreak stories have the quality of a good detective yarn. Drexler pieces together the interplay of bungles, the barriers of ego and ambition, and the lucky breaks ... well-written, well-researched ... a fine and valuable effort."
-- The Washington Post, March 17, 2002

"...Drexler's gripping book is an especially readable account of the dangerous common ground where man and microbes meet. Richly researched and written in simple, conversational language..."
-- USA Today, February 18, 2002

"Secret Agents takes its place as a must-read for the latest on this crucial health issue. ... authoritative, compelling ... vivid ... Drexler's chapters read like dispatches from a war."
-- The Baltimore Sun, March 10, 2002

"...a lively and well-researched story. ... Drexler provides a well-organized and detailed account of several major outbreaks of infectious diseases (predominantly in the United States) and the issues associated with them."
-- Science, February 22, 2002

"Through a quick succession of exciting chapters, Drexler educates the reader... With considerable talent, Drexler makes all of these often complex concepts and pieces of scientific knowledge easily accessible to the general reader. She displays the know-how of the scientific journalist who combines rigour of argumentation with a superb gift for finding the right striking expression. ... Written by an extremely talented writer, Secret Agents should be consumed without moderation by all those with an interest in health, or just in life itself."
-- Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2002

"Ms. Drexler provides a description of bacteria and viruses suitable for the lay audience, while being provocative, honest, and forward-looking in her views on disease and public health."
-- Biodefense Quarterly, Spring 2002

"...a fast-paced, thoroughly researched book. ... Drexler's portraits of victims and the scientists on the front lines looking for clues and answers are compelling."
-- Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2002

" important new book... Drexler's crystal-clear prose reads like a conversation with a master storyteller. This book will amaze and delight anyone fascinated by scientific mysteries."
-- Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 2002

" excellent book... The narrative is revealing, authoritative, and well documented."
-- British Medical Journal, July 2002

"[Secret Agents] relates in 'short story' format the human element behind recent outbreaks and breakthroughs in EID [emerging infectious diseases]. It is not exhaustive, and therefore not exhausting either: one can pick up a chapter, be entertained by Ms. Drexler's prose (that of an accomplished science/medical writer), and come away feeling slightly smarter for the effort. ... The book delves into the personalities, day-to-day events, and the very human nature of disease control. It is chock-full of first-person accounts from the most relevant individuals in each area, reflecting what was likely a great deal of time and research. ... Secret Agents will likely be enjoyed by a diverse audience, from the science observers who like The New Yorker's science/medicine pieces to those engaged in the day-to-day of public health."
-- American Public Health Association website, 2004

"Several recent books have dealt with emerging infections and future microbiological threats. For the lay reader of student, Secret Agents is one of the best. ... Madeline Drexler writes a good story line which is scientifically accurate with a minimum of technical jargon. Moreover, she is bang up-to-date..."
-- Microbiology Today, August 2002

"Secret Agents, the most recent addition to a decade-long list of books devoted to emerging infections, deserves special praise. ... All observations are accurate, original, and infectiously insightful. Indeed, this book is a most enjoyable read; it should be informative for infectious diseases cognoscenti as well as an excellent introduction for an initiative audience wishing to learn about the newest health threats. ... The book reads like a perfect multicourse meal, attractively presented and served with the right amount of clinically correct, surprisingly up-to-date information on dozens of conditions. Drexler's Dorothy Parker-like bon mots and asides are the perfect sauces to compliment the feast. ... Secret Agents is a most delightful read, and, like other very special treats, it should be read slowly, savored, and remembered."
-- Medscape, May 28, 2002

"...well-researched and well-written ... Drexler writes convincingly and engagingly ... Secret Agents is at once alarming and enlightening, and Drexler has provided a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history and nature of infectious disease."
-- National Journal, May 4, 2002

"In a volume written for the educated layman, Drexler does an admirable job of explaining the threats from our food supply, the overuse of antibiotics, exotic viruses such as Ebola, the woeful state of the world's public-health systems and bioterrorism. ... Drexler is a clear and concise writer who avoids sensationalism despite the nature of the subject. She is particularly good at drawing little portraits of the book's heroes, the scientists and medical workers who track and battle the new diseases."
-- Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 10, 2002

"...fascinating narratives of the detective work in unraveling nature's secrets."
-- Town & Village, 2002

"Drexler's informative, understandable, and interesting book deserves a wide readership."
-- CHOICE, October 2002

"...a fascinating, thought-provoking book... A substantial contribution to public information about infectious diseases."
-- Booklist, 2002

"...engrossing overview... Drexler is skilled at making the biology of pathogens accessible to general readers. bioterrorism (which Drexler addresses) becomes a growing threat, her calls for funding public health organizations and global disease-fighting coalitions are worth reiterating."
-- Publishers Weekly, February 4, 2002

"Drexler's fine book ought to be required reading for citizens and public leaders the world over."
--, July 2002

"[Drexler] provides a wealth of stunning information in this timely book about the ongoing battle between humans and germs. ... Superbly written, this book reads like a thriller and will have you examining your refrigerator and environment closely."
-- New Words Bookstore

"A highly compelling narrative."
-- Thomas Inglesby, M.D., Deputy Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies

"Secret Agents skillfully captures the frontline experience in the battle between humans and deadly, ever-changing microbes. This book is hard to put down."
-- Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., Director, University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and co-author of Living Terrors

"Like a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, Secret Agents is a panorama teeming with miniatures that make the blood run cold. An authoritative book for an anxious age."
-- Patricia Thomas, author of Big Shot: Passion, Politics, and the Struggle for an AIDS Vaccine

"Madeline Drexler stuns the reader, and rightly so, in this superbly written and alarming book."
-- James Woolsey, former Director, Central Intelligence Agency, attorney at law

"Drexler tells the real story behind public health investigations -- a story of difficult characters, lapses in cooperation, and ugly turf battles. A valuable expos ."
-- Frederick A. Murphy, D.V.M, Ph.D, former Director, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus

"An extraordinarily timely book that provides a wealth of information."
-- James M. Hughes, M.D., Director, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention