Preston Hot Zone



Preston\'s Hot Zone

Imagine walking into a tiny village in Africa, suffering and dying from some unknown virus. As you approach the huts you hear the wails of pure agony from the afflicted tribe members. Coming closer, you smell the stench of vomit mixed with the bitter smell of warm blood. People inside lay dying in pools of their own vital fluids, coughing and vomiting up their own liquefied internal organs; their faces emotionless masks loosely hanging from their skulls, the connective tissue and collagen in their bodies turned to mush. Their skin bubbled up into a sea of tiny white blisters and spontaneous rips occurring at the slightest touch, pouring blood that refuses to coagulate. Hemmorging and massive clotting underneath the skin causing black and blue bruises all over the body. Their mouths bleeding around their teeth from hemorrhaging saliva glands and the sloughing off of their own tongues, throat lining, and wind pipe, crying tears of pure blood from hemorrhaging tear ducts and the disintegration of the eyeball lining and bleeding from every opening on the body. You see the blood spattered room and pools of black vomit, expelled during the epileptic convulsions that accompany the last stages of death. Their hearts have bled into themselves, heart muscles softened and hemorrhaging , the brain clogged with dead blood cells (sludging of the brain), the liver bulging and yellow with deep cracks and the spleen a single hard blood clot. Babies with bloody noses born with red eyes lay dead from spontaneous abortions of affected mothers. It is the human slate-wiper, the invisible ultimate death, the filovirus named Ebola.
The theme of Richard Preston\'s Hot Zone seems deal with man\'s one predator, the invisible one, the one thing that man cannot seek out and conquer, the one that lurks unseen and undetected in the shadows waiting for a warm body to make its new breeding ground in, with total disregard for person, social class, or status. We are "meat", as the biologists at the USAMRIID Institute stated, no names, no faces, no "individuality", the virus rips through our bodies with no thought, mechanical reproducers who sabotage our cells and used them as incubators until their "offspring" replicate to the point the cell wall bursts, releasing hundreds of new virus particles. Literally thousands of these "killers", as humans see them can be held on the point of an ink pen. The question the book seems to raise later on, however, is who is the real impostor; the virus on the human race, or the human race on its home for the past millions of years, the rain forests. Are Ebola, and the other filoviruses, antibodies against the "human virus" that is swiftly and thoughtlessly destroying Mother Earth? Are these viruses the "check" on the human K-species that we have been expecting?
For the most part, the characters of this book have the utmost respect for all Level 4 viruses, especially the greatly feared and most deadly Ebola Zaire (killing 90% of those infected). Handling viral samples, infected animals and blood samples as if they were nuclear weapons, that if detonated, would ultimately result in total carnage. They were all right in doing so, all having witnessed the gruesome effects on living organisms on one primate or another.
Gene Johnson, the civilian virus hunter working for the army who specialized in Ebola, perhaps showed the most fear and total respect for its destructive capabilities and unpredictable nature. Having visited Africa, researching, studying, and actually staring the virus in the face, Gene knew the virus all to well. In the winter of 1989, the foreigner made its first appearance on the North American continent via an infected monkey who been shipped here from the Philippines. An "unknown virus" was sweeping through a monkey house in West Virginia, first noticed by some runny noses and loss of appetite, ending a few days later with death; bloody noses, swollen livers, and enlarged spleens. First perceived to be Marburg, one of the filovirus sisters, it was later revealed to actually be the more lethal Ebola. An operation was organized to nuke the monkey house, to destroy the virus, along with every living thing inside; every monkey was assumed a carrier. Of all the people involved in the Reston operation,