Science Magazine reporter Jon Cohen. Photo courtesy of Jon Cohen
During the pandemic, one of my go-to sources for context was science journalist Jon Cohen. Cohen is a long-time infectious disease reporter and a senior correspondent for Science magazine. He has written more than 100 deeply reported stories about all aspects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including how the virus impacts the body’s immune system and the global race to access vaccines.
Now that the acute phase of the pandemic is over, the story of where SARS-CoV-2 came from is gaining more prominence. Did it come from an animal? Or from a research lab? The answer remains elusive, though the greater share of evidence points to an animal.
Alison Young and her new book, “Pandora’s Gamble.” Young’s photo by Lisa V. Damico
For most of the past three years, I have been persuaded by the scientists and epidemiologists who said the assertion that the COVID-19 pandemic was the result of an accident at the Wuhan Virology Institute was just a conspiracy theory. But in the past year, questions have arisen that suggest scientists may have been too quick to dismiss the idea.
That’s why I found investigative journalist Alison Young’s new book “Pandora’s Gamble” an interesting read for health journalists. In the book, Young recounts the long history of accidents and leaks at pathogen research laboratories, which she backs up with years of in-depth reporting.
Among the many controversies connected to the pandemic is the question: Where did SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, come from before it emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019?
Veteran science journalist David Quammen skillfully and artfully tackles this question in his recent book “Breathless: The Scientific Effort to Defeat a Deadly Virus.” It is a detective story about the source of the virus and what is known, as of 2022. It is also a great read for any journalist looking for context about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus likely emerged and who the knowledgeable scientists are to talk to as this story unfolds.