You’re Invited: Celebrate Our New Book with Us in NYC and Westport, CT

Westport, Connecticut is one of the most beautiful places in America. Its picturesque streets are lined with quaint shops and restaurants, its historic downtown houses charming Victorian homes and elegant hotels, and it’s vibrant nightlife attracts tourists from around the world. But there’s another side to Westport that few people see — a hidden side where residents live in fear of a mysterious illness sweeping through their town. And no one wants to go near it.

“I don’t want my kids to play in the woods,” says Linda Breen, a retired teacher whose home sits just off Main Street. “It’s not safe.” She points out that her street is lined with trees and hedges, but she doesn’t feel secure enough to let her children outside anymore. “My husband and I have been living here all our lives,” she adds.

“We’ve never had any problems until now.”

Breen and other residents of Westport say they haven’t seen anyone get sick or show symptoms since the first case was diagnosed last year. They worry that if someone does catch the virus, it could spread rapidly through the community. So far, there have been no confirmed cases in neighboring towns like East Haven or Waterbury; however, those communities aren’t immune either. “We’re all terrified that it’s just a matter of time,” says Rainy Amador, the owner of Westport Florist.

“I have four kids at home. I don’t want them to get sick.”

The National Guard was deployed here more than a month ago, and they’ve blocked off roads leading into town. They say the blockade is just temporary, but no one knows how long it will last. In the meantime, Westport’s residents are suffering from a shortage of food, medicine, and other essential supplies. “We’re completely cut off,” says Amador.

“I can’t even take my kids to the doctor if they need to go.

How can this be happening in the United States?”

The virus appeared in the Middle East nearly six months ago and spread to Europe not long after that. World health officials were slow to respond, and by the time they did, the virus had already started mutating into a highly contagious airborne strain. So far nearly a billion people around the world have been infected, and that number is still growing.

The danger is especially high here in America, where crowded cities and long international borders make it difficult to control the spread of the disease. In an effort to contain it, the president recently closed the country’s borders and suspended certain civil liberties. Checkpoints have been set up around major cities, and the National Guard has been called in to help. So far the strategy seems to be working, but at a high price.

Intense demand for flu vaccines has stressed the supply, and medicine shortages are already being reported across the country.

Meanwhile, Westport’s residents are still struggling to come to terms with their new reality. “It’s like a nightmare that just won’t end,” says Amador. “One day you think you’ve got it all, and the next it’s all been taken away. It’s scary.”

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