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Book report the hot zone by richard preston

Book Report: The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

In October of l989, Macaque monkeys, housed at the Reston Primate

Quarantine Unit in Reston, Virginia, began dying from a mysterious disease at an

alarming rate. The monkeys, imported from the Philippines, were to be sold as

laboratory animals. Twenty-nine of a shipment of one hundred died within a month.

Dan Dalgard, the veterinarian who cared for the monkeys, feared they were dying

from Simian Hemorrhagic Fever, a disease lethal to monkeys but harmless to

humans. Dr. Dalgard decided to enlist the aid of the United States Army Medical

Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) to help diagnose the case.

On November 28th, Dr. Peter Jahlring of the Institute was in his lab testing a

virus culture from the monkeys. Much to his horror, the blood tested positive

for the deadly Ebola Zaire virus. Ebola Zaire is the most lethal of all strains

of Ebola. It is so lethal that nine out of ten of its victims die. Later, the

geniuses at USAMRIID found out that it wasn't Zaire, ! but a new strain of Ebola,

which they named Ebola Reston. This was added to the list of strains: Ebola

Zaire, Ebola Sudan, and now, Reston. These are all level-four hot viruses. That

means there are no vaccines and there are no cures for these killers.

In 1976 Ebola climbed out of its primordial hiding place in the jungles

of Africa, and in two outbreaks in Zaire and Sudan wiped out six hundred people.

But the virus had never been seen outside of Africa and the consequences of

having the virus in a busy suburb of Washington DC is too terrifying to

contemplate. Theoretically, an airborne strain of Ebola could emerge and circle

the world in about six weeks. Ebola virus victims usually "crash and bleed," a

military term which literally means the virus attacks every organ of the body

and transforms every part of the body into a digested slime of virus particles.

A big point that Preston wanted to get across was the fact that the public

thinks that the HIV virus is quite possibly the most horrible virus on Earth,

when no one takes into mind the effects and death of the victims of Ebola.

Preston shows how Ebola and Marburg (a close relative of Ebola) is one hundred

times more contagious, one hundred times as lethal, and one hundr! ed times as

fast as HIV. "Ebola does in ten days what it takes HIV ten years to accomplish,"

wrote Richard Preston. The virus, though, has a hard time spreading, because the

victims usually die before contact with a widespread amount of civilians. If

there were to be another outbreak in North America, the results would be


Upon reading The Hot Zone, one could easily believe that this compelling

yet terrifying story sprang from the imaginations of Stephen King or Michael

Crichton. But the frightening truth is that the events actually occurred and

that "could-be-catastrophe" was avoided by the combined heroic efforts of

various men and women from USAMRIID and the Center for Disease Control. Preston

writes compassionately and admiringly of the doctors, virologists and

epidemiologists who are the real-life Indiana Jones' of the virus trail. Some

like Dr. Joe McCormick, Karl Johnson, and CJ Peters spent years tracking down

deadly viruses in the jungles of South America and Africa, some narrowly

escaping death. Their work is filled with courage, brilliance and sometimes

petty rivalries. Others, like Dr. Nancy Jaax have lived rather conventional

lives, aside from the fact that they don a space suit and work with highly

lethal viruses on a regular basis.

Preston has written a fast-paced and fascinating novel of medical panic.

His gripping narrative is filled with horrifying and gore-filled descriptions

and tension-building plot turns. From depictions of events at a Belgian Hospital

in Africa to the nerve-racking laboratory scenes in Virginia, he is adept at

keeping the reader riveted. At the conclusion the reader is left with the

chilling and fact based haunting after thought "what if?"

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