The book begins with a French Man, nicknamed Charles Monet, visiting the Kitum Cave*. A few days after, he begins to suffer from symptoms such as vomiting, red eye, and back pain. He is later taken to the Nairobi Hospital*. There, he goes into a coma and dies. Shem Musoke was infected by exposure to Charles’ blood and vomit. Musoke developed symptoms from the filovirus* and survived. This particular filovirus was found to be the Marburg virus*. Dr. Nancy Jaax had been promoted to the Level 4* Biosafety containment area at USAMRIID. * She is assigned to research Ebola virus*.
When she was cooking at home, she cut her right hand. Later, at work, she didn’t check her suit close enough. She was dissecting an EBOV-infected monkey, and one of the gloves on the hand with the open wound rips, and she is almost exposed to contaminated Ebola blood. The readers later find that Nancy was not infected. Peter Cardinal, a ten-year-old, visits Kitum Cave. He gets infected with a Marburg relative, Ravn virus (RAVV), and does not survive this infection. Nurse Mayinga is infected as well and visits Nairobi Hospital for treatment, where she is infected by the disease.
A CDC* team arrives to collect samples of the virus for study. A company called Hazelton Research, in Reston, Virginia was a quarantine center for monkeys. In October 1989, many monkeys started dying. Samples were sent to Fort Detrick (USAMRIID) for study. At the time, people thought the virus was Simian hemorrhagic fever virus, a fever harmless to humans but almost always fatal to other primates. When they sent it to biosafety level 3, one of the samples appeared to be contaminated with the harmless hemorrhagic fever virus. Two USAMRIID scientists exposed themselves to the virus by sniffing the flask.
When they tested the samples with known Level 4 agents, only EBOV reacted. After one of the monkey house staff members becomes ill with nausea and violent vomiting, USAMRIID is given permission to send in a team to kill all the monkeys at the facility and collect tissue samples. They later determine that, while the virus is terrifyingly lethal to monkeys, humans can be infected with it without any health effects at all. This virus is now known as Reston virus(RESTV). At the end of the novel, the author goes into Kenya to explore Kitum Cave. He talks about the roles of AIDS today.
He mentions that “the road to Mount Elgon is a segment of the AIDS highway, the Kinshasa Highway… ” He enters the cave with a bio “space suit. ” Inside, he finds a large number of animals, one of which might be the virus carrier. At the conclusion of the book, he goes to the Hazelton facility in Reston. The building there was abandoned. He concludes the book by saying Ebola will be back. There were several important quotes in this novel that I highlighted: “after his New Year’s visit to Kitum Cave- January 8, 1980- Monet felt a throbbing pain behind his eyeballs. “Suddenly he does into the last phase- the human virus bomb explodes. Military biohazard specialists have ways of describing this occurrence. They say that the victim has “crashed and bled out. ” Or more politely they say that the victim has “gone down. ”” “Nine days after the patient vomited into Dr. Shem Musoke’s eyes and mouth, Musoke developed an aching sensation in his back. ” “Marburg is the only ringed-shaped virus known. ” “Marburg virus (the gentler sister) affects humans somewhat like nuclear radiation, damaging virtually all of the tissues in their bodies.
It attacks with particular ferocity the internal organs, connective tissue, intestines, and skin. ” “Ebola virus is named for the Ebola River, which is the headstream of the Mangala River, a tributary of the Congo, or Zaire, River. ” “Ebola Zaire attacks every organ and tissue in the human body except skeletal muscle and bone. ” “Priority One. Safety of the human population. Priority Two. Euthanasia of the animals with a minimum of suffering. Priority Three. Gathering of scientific samples. Purpose: to identify the strain and determine how it travels. ”
Richard Preston wrote a New Yorker article titled “Crisis in the Hot Zone” in 1992. It was later extended into The Hot Zone (1994). It is classified as a “non-fiction thriller” about the Ebola Virus. He became familiar with the virus through Army researchers and people such as Nancy Jaax. His fascination began during a visit to Africa when he saw virus epidemics. As I was reading, I thought about the author’s intentions for writing this novel. I concluded that he wanted to inform the reader on Ebola with an interesting novel. He also wanted to describe what happened, and warn the public to be careful and not let it happen again.
One of the universal lessons is that viruses are dangerous. This lesson, in itself, seems like common sense. Yet Nancy Jaax didn’t check her suit completely when dealing with Ebola. EBOV is a very rapid and hazardous agent that the human population should be alert about. “A hot virus from the rain forest lives within a twenty-four-hour plane flight from every city on earth. All of the earth’s cities are connected but a wed of airline routes. The web is a network. Once a virus hits the net, it can shoot anywhere in a day- Paris, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, wherever planes fly.
Charles Monet and the life form inside him had entered the net. ” One man, unknowingly, transferred a level 4 agent into America. I’d say Richard Preston, while writing The Hot Zone, had a slightly altered view point in where Ebola isn’t just a virus; it is almost like a predator, and humans it’s prey. Even with the interesting plot and all, there is always going to be something missing. And in this case, it’s not missing. It’s too much of something. The story dragged on and there were many unnecessary details. This novel easily could have been around 300 pages, instead of a whopping 448.
There are generally 5 existing themes in geography. Place, Location, Movement, Human/Environment interaction, and Region. All of these were present in The Hot Zone. A. Places- Nairobi Hospital, Hazelton Facility, Fort Detrick B. Location- Kenya, Kitum Cave, Mount Elgon, C. Movement- the operation to take out the monkeys, the sending of the sample from the Hazelton Facility to Fort Derick, traveling to Africa in search of the virus, etc D. Human/Environment interaction- Various people getting infected in the Kitum Cave by messing with the walls, wiping out the monkey house, etc
E. Region- N Kenya, N America In conclusion, I had mixed feelings when reading this book. At first, I disliked it. I am not a fan of guts and gore, or nonfiction for that matter. Yet as the story line(s) progressed, it pulled me further and further into the lives of the people affected. I ended up liking this book, despite all of the gruesome details. The Hot Zone is one of the only nonfiction novels I’ve read (so far), that I would call a “page-turner. ” Not only did I keep turning the pages, but it turned a terrifying virus into a thrilling journey.