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China Syndrome: The True Story of the 21st Century's First Great Epidemic

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  321 ratings  ·  50 reviews
When the SARS virus broke out in China in January 2003, Karl Taro Greenfeld was the editor of Time Asia in Hong Kong, just a few miles from the epicenter of the outbreak. After vague, initial reports of terrified Chinese boiling vinegar to "purify" the air, Greenfeld and his staff soon found themselves immersed in the story of a lifetime.

Deftly tracking a mysterious viral
Published March 14th 2006 by Harper
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Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Corona virus outbreak reminds me of this book. It was penned by Time Asia's editor.

This is the story of the SARs epidemic,which was such a major scare in 2003. That too originated in China. Its impact was massive in Hong Kong with its high population density and housing consisting almost entirely of apartment blocks.

The author was right there. The book is a very readable combination of research,personal observations and stories of the victims.

Has the feel of a medical thriller,only this epi
Bob Croft
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I own a commercial janitorial firm, with a focus on health, and write a blog. Here's one I drew from the book:
In the 2003 SARS outbreak,the biggest non-hospital outbreak in Hong Kong was at Amoy Gardens, a complex of eight-story apartment towers, and particularly in one of the towers. Much speculation involved how the virus, borne by various bodily fluids and by aerosols (think coughing or sneezing), spread quickly among residents, living on various floors and without much apparent contact.
Chinmaya Behera
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book about the SARS epidemic, pretty much focused on the investigative work done by health professionals and journalists. A very relevant book for 2020, when the world is grappling with Covid-19. Highly recommend this book to anyone looking to understand how zoonotic viruses are spread from animals to humans and then humans to other humans. The underlying causes for SARS and Covid-19 are similar and the effects these had on Chinese economy or world economy have multiple parallels between 2 ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I read this book today as the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is in its full swing, it feels that exactly the same event that had recoiled 17 years ago is now unfolding itself all over again. The history is repeating itself. An infectious disease is evolving into an epidemic in a global scale, by a novel virus of similar structure and function (but different), which jumped to human from wild species found in wet markets. The tragic drama again happens in China, even with same players: sluggish p ...more
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 中国
“There would be another outbreak, if not SARS, then another emerging virus... this was common sense: too many people were living too close together with too many wild animals.

Welcome, virus.”

It was eerie reading about the 2002 SARS outbreak while another coronavirus is shutting down the world. In many ways it’s sad that so many lessons learned during the SARS crisis went unheeded by the world this time around.

There are still a lot of questions unanswered about these coronaviruses, including h
Sebastian Rotella
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you want to read just one book to understand today's nightmare, read this one. Brilliant, intrepid, grimly funny, beautifully written, and, of course, remarkably prescient. It is full of great scenes, characters and insights. A blistering indictment of a dictatorship. And a tribute to medical professionals from many countries, from renowned scientists who defeated the epidemic to a conscientious young doctor in a provincial hospital whom government thugs literally dragged out of the room whil ...more
Ernest Sneed
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science
This book is the warning message in the bottle for the year 2020. Published in 2006, it tells the story of the first corona virus outbreak in China in 2003. The author documents the actions of that time period which were very similar to what has happened in 2020. The book covers such details as: the geometric expansion of the population infection, the severity of the pulmonary disease, the inadequate preparations of the hospital and public health system, the deaths of hospital workers due to lac ...more
May 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
For information junkies like myself, an account of the SARS outbreak in 2002 qualifies as perfect pandemic reading. A lot of the content was fascinating, like the details about how zoonotic viruses jump from animals to humans, and just how horribly China handled the SARS outbreak. I did not love the writing style and found the organization of the content a little haphazard. Especially the attempts at cliffhanger endings on chapters... am I reading a spy thriller? Probably a book written by a vir ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Great book about SARS that's focused on the investigative work done by health professionals and journalists. I read somewhere that this is *the* book to read about SARS, and I agree. Very interesting read. ...more
Abhishek Dalal
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book on SARS. Must read given the circumstances we find ourselves in-eerily similar. China’s prevarications then and now have led to untold damage to their people and the rest of the world.
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very readable and informative about the fight against SARS. But the author also occasionally makes obnoxious off-color comments (saying a woman’s nose was too wide, making fun of an employee for wanting to home to Guangdong) that really detract. His characters seem somewhat cartoonish
Anikon N
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Loved the book, a very interesting read especially in the current global pandemic times. The final words about China and the next outbreak after SARS were just bang on: “This was common sense: too many people were living too close together with too many wild animals. Welcome, virus.”
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read this and keep in mind it was published in 2006. Don't get bogged down in the middle - read all the way to the end. ...more
I started reading this book, about the SARS coronavirus outbreak which began in China's Guangdong province, just as news about the now-named Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) was gaining an infectious traction in Wuhan, China. Both started out being classified as atypical pneumonia (or pneumonia of unknown origins). Both have been traced to having their genesis (or spread) from live-animal markets.

This book is authored by a former editor of Time Asia magazine, based in Hong Kong. As such, he was in the uni
Chris Moen
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read, very comparable to the situation we’re seeing currently with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. If you want to learn more about how much Wet markets are to blame and the ruthless slaughter of live animals for bizarre reasons aside from meat, read this! One of my favorite nonfiction thrilling science books of all times.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read if you want to get an in depth knowledge of emerging viruses, especially SARS Coronaviruses coming out of China in the 21st Century. The text is about the 2003 outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong and China. I read this during the Covid-19 pandemic and sheltering in place of March-April 2020 and was blown away by the parallels of the two pandemics. An excellent book, told in journalistic style as it was written by the former Editor of TIME Asia who was living in Hong Kong at the tim ...more
Diep Vu
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Can hardly describe in words how I got shivered by the author's workloads via this book pertaining to the outbreak of SARS epidemic in Hongkong and mainland China in 2003. After spending more than two months reading "China Syndrome" as of the blockade of Wuhan on 23.01, I see a lot of Greenfeld's efforts through figures and statistics laid down in each of his valuable chapter. To the readers, Greenfeld provided them with lots of knowledge not just in virology, microbiology and epidemiology in pa ...more
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is brilliant! Non-fiction, but written like a Grisham novel, it documents the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia. Author Karl Greenfield was the editor of Time Asia and his journalistic skills are evident as he exposes the where, what, who and how of the outbreak. The cast of doctors, health workers, politicians and scientists who battle the virus, plus the victims infected by it, are described brilliantly - Greenfield really brings these folks to life. The story is told chronologically and un ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As the world stares down COVID-19, I wanted to understand what we learned from a different-but-similar coronavirus, SARS, and what that response looked like on the ground. This book delivered, in a well-sourced but very readable format from an author who was on the ground in China during the outbreak in 2003.
Capturing both the scientific race and some personal anecdotes of patients and families, this book is very well done and will have readers quickly drawing parallels to the current situation
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Two of my favorite subjects, China and pandemics unite in a terrific book. This is exciting and terrifying as the Hot Zone.

One star deducted because the writing faltered at times with lame humor-like comparing Jennifer Lopez to a virus.

Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
The book started off pretty exciting but then got very repetitive, telling variations of the same scenario over and over.
Shuey Mirkin
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reads like a novel, but well-researched and informative. It's scary to think how long we've known about these issues and did basically nothing about them. ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it liked it
“The season of SARS could be viewed as either an anachronism or a harbinger.”

There is a definite sense of eerie deja vu in reading this book right now, from the slowly escalating rumours, and mutters about biological warfare, to the runs on particular kinds of equipment and supplies, to the very timeline and symptoms of the illness itself. Yet perhaps the most eerie part is the unheeded warning that SARS now represents. As Greenfeld details, the Chinese government banned the sale of the animal f
Stephen Findeisen`
A warning heeded too late

One cannot read this book today without marveling at the seemingly prescient predictions the author makes about the potential of a SARS2. He convincingly demonstrates how coverups in China slowed reactions, the era of wild flavor and strange meat markets allowed for Animal viruses to cross the species barrier with scary efficiency. You couldn’t create a better breeding ground for dangerous viruses. And yet even after SARS1 the meat markets opened back up quickly. We’re j
kevin browning
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Greenfeld's China Syndrome is a case study on how China denied the existence of SARS, downplayed it's threat, and chose political stability over public safety. The mistakes made by the Chinese government virtually parallels the mistakes made by Trump's regime during the SARS 2 pandemic. If you believe that we could not have been prepared for SARS 2, then I highly recommend you read this book. It is a lie that we could not have been prepared. As Greenfeld argues, "the first response to a pandemic ...more
Mark B. Boyer
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a timely book about the SARS virus and Wet markets

With the current Coronavirus pandemic perhaps starting in the Chinese Wet markets I wanted to understand how the Chinese government allowed these markets to continue to operate. The book answered that and explained the events surrounding the SARS outbreak in 2002. A well written interesting book about the SARS outbreak. The Chinese government behavior was shameful on many levels.
Kathleen M Gass Shea
Almost prophetic of the 2020 pandemic and a missed warning for many

I started reading this in late 2019, got distracted, set it down and didn’t think much about it until spring of this year when CoVid began to bubble up. As I picked it up and began reading again it was fascinating to see how the Chinese government responded to this “first” round of Corona virus and how the conditions and issues were relevant all over again. Very interesting read- particularly in 2020.
Alex Beaver
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic epidemiological record of the SARS outbreak and the Chinese government’s attempt to cover up the disease. Some of the details are truly shocking.

Fascinating to read at the same time a new coronavirus outbreak threatens to become pandemic.
Dave N'renee
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

is corona virus the replacement SARS? is chinese financial dominance the reason for the slow response (again) to the spread of a virus with potential (now realized) pandemic reach?
William Highton
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The truly shocking thing about reading this book during the current Coronavirus outbreak in 2020 is that we have learned nothing.
This was almost inevitable and forgive me for saying a lot of the blame must rest with China for not paying heed. Human lives matter more than regimes.
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I'm the author of six books, including the recent novel Triburbia, the story collection NowTrends, the memoir Boy Alone and the Japanese youth culture collection Speed Tribes ...more

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