The Hot Zone is about the Ebola and Marburg Viruses, which are fatal viruses that are highly infectious and kill about 90% of their victims. Even when medical care is sought these viruses still kill because there is no cure, and no vaccine to fight them off. In fact, hospitals are actually where these viruses thrive because the number of people that are infected with Marburg and Ebola in such medical facilities seeking help. The Hot Zone starts off with the first known case of Marburg; the case of Charles Monet, a researcher from France living in Africa.
He lived and worked at the Nzoia Sugar Factory, a plantation in Eastern Kenya. On New Year’s Eve he and a woman went up Mount Elgon to camp out and on New Year’s Day went into Kitum cave. Seven days after he left Mount Elgon he began to have a throbbing headache and then two days later he spiked a fever and began to vomit. The vomiting continued and his face lost all sign of life, and his eyes took a slightly bulging appearance but half closed at the same time. They lay frozen in his sockets and turned bright red, while his face turned a yellow color with red splotches.
As far as his personality went he became hostile and angry with little to no memory. His friends and colleagues decided that he should go to a hospital. The doctors at a hospital in the city of Kisumu had no idea as to what it might be so he was sent on a commuter airplane to the Nairobi hospital. While on the plane he continuously vomits a red liquid with black specks in it, his head turns black and blue, and it starts to droop. The virus is multiplying inside Charles and saturates the entire body, undergoing “extreme amplification”.
When this happens the virus is trying to transform the host into itself. Next blood clots then start to form cutting off the blood flow to his brain, causing damage and depersonalization to occur. Then blood vessels in his nose break making his nose bleed continuously without clotting. When the plane finally lands at Kenyatta International Airport Monet signals for a taxi and is taken to the Nairobi Hospital. While waiting at the hospital he underwent the final phase; he crashes and bleeds out. Monet goes into shock, vomits some more, falls out into the floor, and loses consciousness.
A young doctor named Shem Musoke worked quickly to find out how he could help him but in the process he was threw up on and is instantly infected by the Marburg virus without knowing. Later that night Monet dies with Dr. Musoke at his side. Nine days after the death of Charles Monet, Musoke started to get a backache. The pain spreads throughout his body and his eyes began turning red, he began having all of the symptoms of Monet and surgery was performed to examine his liver and samples are taken. Ten days after this surgery, surprisingly, he began to recover and he ended up surviving.
In the next part of the Hot Zone the setting is then moved to Thurmont, Maryland, 1983 where Major Nancy Jaax is introduced. She was a veterinarian in the United States army and worked in the biological laboratories of USAMRIID at Ft. Detrick. The day before she was to dissect monkeys infected with Ebola Zaire, she had cut her hand while trying to open a can with a knife. The next day she reported to work and prepared to work with a level 4 hot agent with colleague, Tony Johnson. While dissecting a monkey Jaax discovered a hole in the first layer of gloves on her right hand.
After taking off the ruined glove she saw a crack in her space suit glove. She left the room panicking, and got in the decon shower. She then took off her suit and found that the last layer of glove was wet with blood but it had kept the Ebola infected blood from touching her cut, saving her. Two weeks later it was learned that Ebola Zaire is, in fact, transmitted through the air, when two of the control monkeys that had not been injected with the virus, contracted it and died. In 1976, Ebola had a breakout in southern Sudan starting with a man name Mr. Yu.
G, who could have caught the virus from bats in the factory he worked in. However, this is only a possibility, it is largely unknown, the origin of any of the Ebola viruses. His illness then began to copy itself all throughout Sudan through dirty needles in hospitals. It soon vanishes though, because it killed people so fast, it couldn’t sustain humans as a host. A couple months later another strain of Ebola broke out in Zaire that was two times as lethal as Ebola Sudan, and was spread by a woman called nurse Mayinga, who had traveled through the city seeking help with her condition.
In Reston, Virginia a company called Hazelton Research ran an isolation center for monkeys that were intended for laboratories. In October 1989, when an unusually high number of their monkeys began to die, their veterinarian, Dan Dalgard, decided to send some samples to USAMRIID for study. When studied by Peter Jharling, it was believed to be a Simian hemorrhagic fever virus, which is harmless to humans but lethal to monkeys. However, when Thomas Geisburt, the person in charge of the electron microscope at USAMRIID, reevaluated the same he thought it looked oddly like Marburg.
It was then tested with the blood of Nurse Mayinga, who died of Ebola Zaire and tested positive, signaling that they were either the same or very similar. It was then put in the hands of C. J. Peters who had decided to create a team of CDC and military members, including Nancy and Jerry Jaax, to take action. Dan Dalgard and Bill Volt, however, denied them permission to come in and euthanize all their monkeys. This is until two of their employees become ill, one with a heart attack and one vomiting, and then the whole situation is put into the military’s hands.
A group of young military privates were then put together along with the CDC members to go in and euthanize 450 monkeys. The operations went through very smoothly over a period of a couple days, all the monkeys were taken care of and the monkey house was sterilized. It was later discovered that this particular Ebola virus was a different strain that is only lethal to monkeys, and harmless to humans, therefore it was named Ebola Reston. Finally, the author goes to Africa to explore Kitum Cave, himself. He then discusses the AIDS viruses that swept its way across the entire world and how it is still devastating people everywhere.
Dressed in a protective suit, he moves into the cave and discovers a variety of animals, a number of them possibly being the carrier of the viruses. At the end of the book, he travels to the isolation facility in Reston. The building there was abandoned and aging, but he finally concludes that the Ebola virus will be back. I believe that the Hot Zone was very well written and kept my interest fairly well throughout the book. I found that the way that the events were ordered made it easier for the reader to understand where the viruses came from and what they were.
It also allowed the realization to set in that there are viruses out there that can completely destroy a human being in a period of days. The only complaint I have about the book is that in some places it did lose my interest when it seemed that the author seemed to drone on with a certain subject. However, he did make it suspenseful which regained my attention. I also found that the science discussed was quite interesting because it helped the reader to have a grasp on how the viruses worked. A scientific concept that was discussed was the structure of the Ebola Virus.
It contains seven different proteins, three of which are vaguely understood, and four that are completely unknown. These proteins target the immune system and cause it to fail. Your body then becomes overwhelmed by the virus and all your cells become hosts for the virus. It also discusses that the virus is a capsule made of membranes and proteins that contains one strand of Ebola RNA. The viruses that are outside cells are dormant until they meet a cell, then the virus latches to the cell and is enfolded by it where it then begins to replicate.
Another scientific concept discussed is the filovirus or “thread virus”. All filoviruses look almost identical as they are all different from other viruses. While most viruses are ball-shaped particles, filoviruses look like worms, and have the appearance of spaghetti when in a group. The Marburg virus rolls up into loops and is the only ring-shaped virus known. It affects humans like nuclear radiation and damages all tissues in the body, including internal organs, connective tissue, intestines, and skin.
However, even though they are structurally different from ordinary viruses, they work essentially the same way, by attaching to a host cell and replicating itself. A Third concept is the idea of extreme amplification. This is when a hot virus multiplies in a host and saturates itself inside the body from the brain to the skin. The body is being transformed into a virus and every part of the body contains hundreds of millions of particles. However, the process is not successful because the end result is a lot of liquefied flesh mid with virus; it’s a biological accident.