Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story - Review

The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story
by Richard Preston

A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the
appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their "crashes" into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.


My Review:

I first read The Hot Zone when I was 15 years old (that was 5 years ago, in case you're wondering), and I came upon the book at a supermarket. I thought, 'why not?' I usually just go with fiction, but I'm glad I gave the nonfiction genre a chance with this one.

The events in this book go from 1967 to 1993. Richard Preston tries to convey dialogues and person's thoughts basing narratives in interviews with all the subjects. He makes it very clear that every word has been extensively cross-checked. And I believe him. The way he describes the characters' life and actions show that he is not only an excellent researcher, but also a very good writer. He makes you care, he makes you feel what they were feeling. And that's not exactly a good thing in this book, mind you. You might not want to start reading it after lunch or pretty much any other meal. LOL. Things get a little bit less yuck by 2/4 of the book, but the images stay in your head. And then the action really begins.

The book describes the history of the disease, showing an inside look of how Risk Group 4 Pathogens are dealt with Biosafety Level 4-equivalent containment. It teaches us quite a bit about personal protective equipment and virus studies. The author gives very good insight on how the government acts when viruses are involved, and how the high security world of the CDC and the U.S. military's viral technicians work. You can see many of the proceedures and space-suits mentioned on the book in the movie Contagion.

There are many active characters, and even more are mentioned in the book, but there is no doubt as to who the main characters really are. The viruses. So you should know more about them. They are 4 filoviruses, they are all highly infectious and deadly. They come from Africa within their various possible carriers, but their exact origins are still unknown. The thing is, they would love to get inside you.

They are four sisters: Marburg, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Zaire and Ebola Reston. Zaire and Reston are so much alike that it's hard to say how they are different, but, thnakfully, Reston is deadly only to primates.Marburg and Ebola virus, are serologically, biochemically, and genetically distinct. Marburg virus was first isolated during an outbreak in Europe in 1967, and Ebola virus emerged in 1976 as the causative agent of two simultaneous outbreaks in southern Sudan and northern Zaire. Although the main route of infection is known to be person-to-person transmission by intimate contact, the natural reservoir for filoviruses still remains a mystery. They are four sisters: Marburg, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Zaire and Ebola Reston (supposedly comes from Asia). Zaire and Reston are so much alike that it's hard to say how they are different, but, thankfully, Reston is deadly only to primates.

I was curious to know if there were any new discoveries about these viruses in the last decade. If you are like me, and would like to know more about the viruses, try visiting these websites:

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