Henry Parsons, who works for the CDC in Atlanta, goes to a conference of health officials in Geneva, where one of the last speakers informs the participants of a ‘hemorrhagic fever that kills forty-seven people in one week and disappears without a trace’. It occurs in a refugee camp in Indonesia called Kongoli Number Two Camp, in the first week of March. Everyone else simply chalks it up as a one off event to be filed away for future reference. Henry begins asking questions and because no one has investigated, he is asked to go for two days, get samples from the camp, and be on his way home.
This begins the pandemic that threatens to end civilization as we know it. The flu is so highly contagious and deadly that there is no treatment and the only possible way to control it is strict containment. Unfortunately, the driver who takes Henry to the camp site in West Java leaves immediately after visiting the camp for Mecca, where millions gather at the Rock to pray and where infection is uncontrollable, especially when the pilgrims leave for their home countries all over the world. Henry’s family, wife Jill, daughter Helen and son Teddy spend some time at Jill’s sister’s farm outside Nashville, avoiding crowds and the cities until the first wave dies down, but then return to their home. Henry is quarantined in Mecca until war breaks out and he makes a run for it with the help of a friend, a doctor there whom he has known for decades, but who is also a member of the royal family.
As civilization breaks down, Henry tries desperately to get home to his family, who are trying to cope with the catastrophe without him.
A gripping tale, and the publishing date is most interesting, since the Pandemic we recently went through had already started. Obviously, Mr. Wright began this book much earlier, but it still resonates with something that could’ve been much worse.