Summary and book reviews of Inferno by Steven Hatch

Inferno

A Doctor's Ebola Story

by Steven Hatch

Inferno by Steven Hatch
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

A physician's memoir about the ravages of a terrible disease and the small hospital that fought to contain it, Inferno is also an explanation of the science and biology of Ebola: how it is transmitted and spreads with such ferocity.

Inferno is a glimpse into the white-hot center of a crisis that will come again.

Dr. Steven Hatch first came to Liberia in November 2013, to work at a hospital in Monrovia. Six months later, several of the physicians Dr. Hatch had mentored and served with were dead or barely clinging to life, and Ebola had become a world health emergency. Hundreds of victims perished each week; whole families were destroyed in a matter of days; so many died so quickly that the culturally taboo practice of cremation had to be instituted to dispose of the bodies. With little help from the international community and a population ravaged by disease and fear, the war-torn African nation was simply unprepared to deal with the catastrophe.

As Dr. Hatch notes, while Ebola is temporarily under control, it will inevitably re-emerge - as will other plagues, notably the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency.

1

THE VESTIBULE

A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.

—Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

This is a horror story. And as if someone from central casting were pulling the strings, this horror story begins with a small child happily playing right outside his home.

Meliandou is a small village of a few hundred inhabitants living in approximately thirty rustic dwellings in the hinterlands of Guinea, a satellite of the city of Guéckédou, a place to which the villagers, mostly farmers, come to sell their produce in the Nzérékoré Region, the easternmost province of a country shaped almost like an apostrophe that lost its footing in the middle of a sentence and was falling forward. Meliandou's North American equivalent would be described as "sleepy" and perhaps "idyllic." Although it would be naïve to think that Meliandou's people have lived a content, pastoral existence for centuries...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

At the height of the epidemic, infectious disease specialist Steven Hatch volunteered, along with other medical personnel, to staff a Liberian Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) for four weeks; in Inferno he relates his experiences during this crisis. One needn't be an aficionado of medicine-themed books to enjoy Inferno, which should have wide appeal well beyond the typical non-fiction memoir.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review Members Only (993 words).

Media Reviews

Associated Press

Hatch packs a wealth of knowledge into the book...poignant.

Kirkus Reviews

Hatch's testimony is a useful addition to the popular literature about the Ebola outbreak. [His] analysis is intelligent, nuanced, and tempered, a necessary departure from the panicked response of most American media outlets.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hatch's chronicle is a compassionate, clear-eyed, and courageous account of how compassionate medical care proves a formidable force against the ravages of Ebola.

Booklist

Starred Review. An outstandingly well-written, page-turning memoir in which [Hatch] focuses far more on the people he worked with and treated than on his own feelings ... nothing short of a literary miracle.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Readers who are interested in global health, medical education, and biographies in general will be moved by this account for its humanity, honesty, and lucid writing.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Deadly Viruses

Ebola, the viral disease at the core of Steven Hatch's medical memoir, Inferno, is among the most deadly diseases in the world. It is not alone, however, in its lethality; other viruses are at least as likely to be fatal.

There's some debate as to the "most fatal" virus in the world since it depends on what criteria you use (e.g., percentage of those infected who die, total number of people who succumb, etc.), but some of the better known ones are listed below.

The Marburg Virus The Marburg virus with a mortality rate approaching 90% tops many agencies' lists. It's closely related to Ebola and its symptoms are indistinguishable from it; it requires a blood test to tell them apart. Like Ebola, the Marburg virus causes "wet symptoms" such as ...

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