Dr. Terry Ryder, special advisor to the President of the United States on bioterror preparedness, is bone weary. He has spent more than a decade attempting to anticipate which microbes might be weaponized and unleashed in the continental U.S., driving himself to stay 12 steps ahead of all who would try. For known bacteria or viruses, he and his team play Bad Guys, postulating how such microbes would be delivered to a targeted population, then figure out a containment policy.
The plan is always simple - isolate the agent, quarantine the hot zone, and treat the survivors - but Terry and his experts know this is a “duck and cover” sham. In the brutal reality of a bioterror attack, even if all the medical personnel, vaccines and medication could be deployed without a hitch, which they won’t be, the narrow window in which most treatments are effective will be breached. Those confined to ground zero are toast. Worse are the scenarios they compile in which genetically altered organisms cause entirely new diseases against which there is no immunity and for which no treatments exist. Yet even for these he prepares a plan, in talks so secret that nothing is recorded or committed to paper, lest ideas for such chimera be leaked to an enemy. Then, when he and all the members of his committee try to go home to their loved ones after such work, none can rest easy. He for one can’t shut down his thoughts, and these creations creep through his mind like marauding demons. But when clusters of patients begin to present in emergency departments with slight tremors and numbness in their limbs, not even his heightened vigilance tweaks to the menace that such benign beginnings conceal.
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