Georgia Author of the Year, 2004

Experience a bracing ride through a storm of plague, disease, and biological warfare with the brave medical professionals of the Centers for Disease Control. ... Beating Back the Devil is real-life drama with real high stakes.
-AudioFile magazine


Epidemic Intelligence Service: The name could have been pilfered from a science fiction novel, but the EIS is as real as a pulse, a heartbeat, or an anthrax attack. ... Beating Back the Devil tells the story of sleuths who are often just one breath away from death.
-Barnes & Noble(bn.com)


Top 10 Science Books, 2004
-Amazon.com


Top Books, 2004
-Science Friday, NPR


Best Nonfiction Books, 2004
-Atlanta Journal-Constitution


" In the war on terrorism, not all of the front lines are visible or the soldiers well-known. ... McKenna ... offers here the first full-blown account of the EIS and its under-reported history and work. She ventures into the agency's labs and conference rooms, describes the science behind battling such diseases as West Nile virus and points out the weaknesses of the nation's public health infrastructure."
-Scott Lafee,
San Diego Union-Tribune


"If you thrive on danger, stress, unpredictability, and near-certain exposure to the planet’s most virulent bio-toxins, consider a career as an epidemiologist in the Centers for Disease Control’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). That is one message a reader might take home after perusing Maryn McKenna’s unsettling and immensely readable book."
-Cheryl Simon Silver,
Genome News Network


" Through this compelling book, readers not only re-live the events that made or are still making history, they also find the human backstories. There, unheralded heroes overcome physical, emotional and political obstacles to prevent news from happening. People do not die. Disease does not spread. Byline-hungry reporters disappear, leaving the truly important stories to be told later by those journalists, like Ms. McKenna, perceptive enough to see the larger picture and patient enough to wait for it to come into focus."
-Fred Bortz,
Dallas Morning News


"Absorbing, at times frightening."
-James MacGowan,
Ottawa Citizen


" They are medicine's rapid-reaction force, an elite cadre of highly trained disease detectives who are poised to go anywhere on a few hours' notice to investigate a threat to public health. As science journalist Maryn McKenna makes clear in Beating Back the Devil -- her deeply researched portrait of the class of 2002 of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- their work is by turns terrifying, exhilarating, gritty and exhausting. ... A revealing glimpse into the little-known world of deeply committed investigators who trade two years of their lives to be on the front lines of public health."
-Sandra G. Boodman,
Washington Post


"The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) sends its troops stealthily into society's underground or visibly into some of the most dangerous settings on Earth. And, thanks to McKenna, readers come along, sharing the fears, the adventures, the triumphs and the disappointments."
-Cleveland Plain Dealer


"The book is more than a look into a mostly unknown group of physicians, scientists and public-health officers. It also delves into what kind of people get involved in such an enterprise, lending humanity to a story grounded in science. Can a television show based on their work be far behind?"
-Christy Karras,
Salt Lake Tribune


"Rare will be the reader who does not finish this book without a sense of gratitude for the men and women who serve as the first line of defense between us and the most horrible infections imaginable."
-Chauncey Mabe,
South Florida Sun-Sentinel


"Maryn McKenna paints a vivid portrait of these young researchers and their tense, often exhausting lives … By devoting each chapter to one disease and one scientist, she emphasises the drama of their assignments. Her reports from Malawi and Vietnam are especially good."
-Jonathan Beard,
New Scientist


"For anyone interested in public health --- that vast and fascinating intersection of science, art and "shoe leather" --- McKenna's book is a satisfying read. It's comforting to know that the EIS exists and that it's on our side."
-Laura Wexler,
Atlanta Journal-Constitution


"The men and women of the Epidemic Intelligence Service epitomize public service at its finest. McKenna paints a compelling portrait of their fearless sacrifice and unfailing commitment to protecting our nation against the terror of bioweapons and other public health threats. This book will surely inspire the scientists and biologists of tomorrow to answer their nation's call to serve."
-Max Stier,
Partnership for Public Service


"Maryn McKenna was so close to the first group of E.I.S. officers trained after 9/11 that she could practically smell the adrenaline rush they got from being on call in case bioterrorism or a deadly disease struck anywhere on the globe. In McKenna's hands, outbreak investigations read as richly textured mysteries worthy of P.D. James."
-Patricia Thomas,
author of
Big Shot: Passion Politics, and the Struggle for an AIDS Vaccine


"In her enthralling first book, Maryn McKenna takes us inside the unexplored world of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, a vital but rarely discussed part of our national public health service. Without McKenna's thorough research and lively narrative, who would have known of the crusading role the EIS has played since the 1950s in solving our most perplexing medical mysteries? In a new world of bioterror threats and harrowing viruses, McKenna's book is a must-read for anyone concerned about the daunting medical challenges of the future."
-Marilyn W. Thompson,
author of
The Killer Strain: Anthrax and a Government Exposed


"Even people who think they know about the CDC and its elite corps of physicians, the Epidemic Intelligence Service, will be surprised by Beating Back the Devil, a rare inside account of how EIS works in an age of terrorist threat. McKenna hopscotches the globe, from a malaria outbreak in Malawi to SARS in Vietnam, to bring to life some of the most compelling mysteries confronted by these fearless disease detectives."
-Robin Marantz Henig,
author of
A Dancing Matrix: How Science Confronts Emerging Viruses


"In the tradition of Laurie Garrett and Richard Preston, medical journalist Maryn McKenna tells the fascinating story of some of the most intrepid medical detectives at work today: the Centers for Disease Control's Epidemic Intelligence Service. Beating Back the Devil is both an accessible and detailed account of how these microbe hunters survey, contain, and combat deadly germs in the 21st century. It's also a great read."
-Howard Markel,M.D., Ph.D.,
author of
When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed


"Given unique access to the EIS, McKenna presents 11 case studies of epidemics, environmental threats and acts of terrorism EIS has dealt with... McKenna's personal portraits of these dedicated health professionals illuminate the bravery as well as the anxiety that accompany this demanding work."
-Publisher's Weekly


"Among candidates for world's worst job, disease detective ranks pretty high. In Beating Back the Devil, Maryn McKenna examines the everyday fascinations and horrors faced by the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service….McKenna's research is painstakingly meticulous, and the doctors she profiles come across as brave firefighters of microbiological conflagrations. Not since Sherwin Nuland has an author so effectively revealed the dramatic side of medicine."
-Therese Littleton,
Amazon.com