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The Hot Zone

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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 hundred 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




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