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The Hotzone: A Reaction

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The Hot Zone: A Reaction

The Hot Zone written by Robert Preston is a true story describing twenty-three years of shocking and frightening outbreaks of three deadly, incurable filoviruses: Marburg, Ebola Sudan, and Ebola Zaire. In the book, these highly infectious viruses sweep through Africa with a horrifying and devastating range of effects, killing 50% to 90% of their victims. The filoviruses did not remain in the rain forest of central Africa; they also appeared on the other side of the world in the Reston Primate Quarantine Unit in Reston, Virginia.

The virus had never been seen outside of Africa until 1967 when the Ebola virus climbed out of its hiding place in the jungles of Africa and landed in Germany and Yugoslavia which is where the first recorded outbreak of Marburg virus occurred. It appeared in July 1976. A storekeeper in a cotton factory in Nzara, about 800 km from Mount Elgon, died from the marburge virus. Two months later, another 800 km west, Ebola virus erupted in Zaire. These outbreaks wiped out six hundred people Killing 70% of the infected people. Victims of the Ebola virus usually "crash and bleed," with in ten days. "Crash and bleed" is a military term which describes the attack of the virus on every organ of the body and transforming the structures into digested slime hot with the virus.

In October of l989, Macaque monkeys, housed in the unit in Reston, Virginia, began dying from a mysterious disease at an alarming rate. The monkeys, who were imported from the Philippines, were to be sold as laboratory animals. Twenty-nine of a shipment of one hundred

Hot Zone 2

monkeys 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 1989, 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 kills nine out of ten of its victims, but has difficulty spreading. The spread of the virus from person to person is predominantly by blood contact. The victims usually die before it comes in contact with a widespread amount of civilians. An airborne strain of Ebola could emerge and circle the world in about six weeks killing much of the population. Through more studies, the scientists at USAMRIID found out that it wasn't Zaire; they had discovered a new strain of Ebola, which they named Ebola Reston. This strain of the Ebola virus was airborne eliminating the difficulty it had with spreading. This added to the list of strains: Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, and now, Reston are all level-four hot viruses, which means there are no vaccines or cures for these killers.

Preston's description of the medical catastrophe that



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