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Patient Zero

Solving the Mysteries of Deadly Epidemics

Interest Age: 10–14
Grade: 5–9
Reading Level: Common Core Correlations
CCSS.ELA-Literacy Strand-Reading literature: WHST.6-8.2,2a,2b,2c,2d,2e,2f,8,9,10

Reading Level: Lexile 1120L
Hardcover : 9781554516711, 168 pages, June 2014 , 9.0" x 6.5"
Paperback : 9781554516704, 168 pages, June 2014 , 9.0" x 6.5"
Rights sold: Spanish, Korean


Engrossing true stories of the pioneers of epidemiology who risked their lives to find the source of deadly diseases.

Throughout history, more people have died in disease epidemics than in wars or other disasters. The courageous, trail-blazing defenders against these diseases faced a terrifying personal gamble. Often they were ignored, laughed at, or even fired from their jobs. But they kept hunting for answers, putting the pieces of the epidemic puzzle together.

As they looked for clues to the origin of a disease, scientists searched for the unknown “patient zero”—the first person to have contracted it. In nineteenth-century London, Dr. John Snow’s mapping of an epidemic found that patient zero was a six-month-old baby, whose cholera-laden diarrhea had contaminated the water of a local pump. It led to the death of 10,000 inhabitants exposed to the dirty water.

Patient Zero brilliantly brings to life the main characters and events to tell the gripping tale of how each of seven diseases spread.

• The Great Plague, 1665
• The Soho Outbreak,1854
• Yellow Fever in Cuba, 1900
• Typhoid in New York City, 1906
• Spanish Influenza, 1918-1919
• Ebola in Zaire, 1976
• AIDS in the U.S., 1980.

The result is spine-chilling as Peters follows the scientists who solved the intricate mystery of the killer epidemics. Patient Zero reminds us that millions of people owe their lives to the work of these pioneer epidemiologists, work that continues to this day.


  • Short-listed, Red Cedar Book Award 2015
  • Joint winner, CCBC Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center 2014
  • Joint winner, Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children’s Book Centre 2014


“The book reads like a thriller, with gripping accounts of how these diseases affected people.”

- School Library Journal, 08/14

“The mysterious nature of unexplained epidemics is perfectly captured.”

- Kirkus Reviews,08/20/14

“Peters’ writing style incorporates elements of mystery and horror to bring these compelling stories to life.”

- LibraryThing, 09/25/14

“Will be especially relevant . . . for its chapter into the Ebola virus . . . which can be used to fast forward to the current Ebola epidemic”

- Mackin Books in Bloom, 09/29/14

“An excellent book . . . easily accessible and appealing.”

- CM Reviews, 01/09/15

“A great addition to any school and public library.”

- Resource Links, 12/14

“The medical puzzles will intrigue readers; kids who love who-dun-its will be on the edge of their seats while adults will be impressed by the scientific process. ”

- National Reading Campaign, 01/23/15

“Well researched and very informative.”

- Sal’s Fiction Addiction, 02/05/15

“Just enough suspense to keep kids reading and tons of information . . . A great read for nonfiction lovers.”

- Middle Grade and Young Adult Book Reviews, 02/28/15

“Well suited to middle school readers.”

- VOYA, 04/15

“A strong resource for the classroom.”

- Canadian Children’s Book News, 03/15

“An ideal book for both educators to use with students as well as for families searching for a means of grounding and contextualizing COVID-19 for children. Peters’ illustrated history will be essential mid-grade reading for many years to come.”

- Green Teacher, Summer/20